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Volume  Three 

EUROPE:  ARGUMENT  TO  V-E  DAY 

JANUARY  1944  TO  MAY  1945 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES 
In  World  War  II 

PREPARED  UNDER  THE  EDITORSHIP  OF 

WESLEY  FRANK  CRAVEN 

Princeton  University 

JAMES  LEA  CATE 

University  of  Chicago 


New  Imprint  by  the 
Office  of  Air  Force  History 
Washington,  D.C.,  1983 


For  sate  by  the  Superintendent  of  Documents,  U.S.  Government  Printing  Office 
Washington,  D.C.  20402 


The  University  of  Chicago  Press,  Chicago  37 


Cambridge  University  Press,  London,  N.W.  1,  England 
W.  J.  Gage  & Co.,  Limited,  Toronto  2B,  Canada 

Copyright  1951  by  The  University  of  Chicago.  All 
rights  reserved.  Copyright  1951  under  the  Interna- 
tional Copyright  Union.  Published  1951.  Composed 
and  printed  by  The  University  of  Chicago  Press, 
Chicago , Illinois,  U.S.A. 

Copyright  registration  renewed  1979 

This  work,  first  published  by  the  University  of  Chicago  Press, 
is  reprinted  in  its  entirety  by  the  Office  of  Air  Force  History. 
With  the  exception  of  editing,  the  work  is  the  product  of  the 
United  States  government. 


Library  of  Congress  Cataloging  in  Publication  Data 

Main  entry  under  title : 

The  Army  Air  Forces  in  World  War  II. 

Vol.  1 originally  prepared  by  the  Office  of  Air  Force 
History;  v.  2,  by  the  Air  Historical  Group;  and  v.  3-7, 
by  the  IJSAF  Historical  Division. 

Reprint.  Originally  published:  Chicago:  University 
of  Chicago  Press,  1948-1958. 

Includes  bibliographical  references  and  indexes. 
Contents:  v.  1.  Plans  and  early  operations,  January 
1939  to  August  1942 — v.  2.  Europe,  torch  to  point- 
blank,  August  1942  to  December  1943 — [etc.]— v.  7. 
Services  around  the  world. 

1.  World  War,  1939-1945 — Aerial  operations, 
American.  2.  United  States.  Army  Air  Forces — 
History — World  War,  1939-1945.  I.  Craven,  Wesley 
Frank,  1905-  . II.  Cate,  James  Lea,  1899- 

III.  United  States.  Air  Force.  Office  of  Air  Force 
History.  IV.  United  States.  Air  Force.  Air  Historical 
Group.  V.  United  States.  USAF  Historical  Division. 
D790.A89  1983  940.54'4973  83-17288 
ISBN  O-912799-03-X  (v.  1) 


u 


FOREWORD 
to  the  New 
Imprint 


IN  March  1942,  President  Franklin  D.  Roosevelt  wrote  to  the 
Director  of  the  Bureau  of  the  Budget  ordering  each  war 
agency  to  prepare  “an  accurate  and  objective  account”  of 
that  agency’s  war  experience.  Soon  after,  the  Army  Air  Forces 
began  hiring  professional  historians  so  that  its  history  could,  in  the 
words  of  Brigadier  General  Laurence  Kuter,  “be  recorded  while 
it  is  hot  and  that  personnel  be  selected  and  an  agency  set  up  for 
a clear  historian’s  job  without  axe  to  grind  or  defense  to  prepare.” 
An  Historical  Division  was  established  in  Headquarters  Army 
Air  Forces  under  Air  Intelligence,  in  September  1942,  and  the 
modern  Air  Force  historical  program  began. 

With  the  end  of  the  war,  Headquarters  approved  a plan  for 
writing  and  publishing  a seven- volume  history.  In  December  1945, 
Lieutenant  General  Ira  C.  Eaker,  Deputy  Commander  of  Army 
Air  Forces,  asked  the  Chancellor  of  the  University  of  Chicago  to 
“assume  the  responsibility  for  the  publication”  of  the  history, 
stressing  that  it  must  “meet  the  highest  academic  standards.” 
Lieutenant  Colonel  Wesley  Frank  Craven  of  New  York  University 
and  Major  James  Lea  Cate  of  the  University  of  Chicago,  both  of 
whom  had  been  assigned  to  the  historical  program,  were  selected 
to  be  editors  of  the  volumes.  Between  1948  and  1958  seven  were 
published.  With  publication  of  the  last,  the  editors  wrote  that 
the  Air  Force  had  “fulfilled  in  letter  and  spirit”  the  promise  of 
access  to  documents  and  complete  freedom  of  historical  interpre- 
tation. Like  all  history,  The  Army  Air  Forces  in  World  War  II 
reflects  the  era  when  it  was  conceived,  researched,  and  written. 
The  strategic  bombing  campaigns  received  the  primary  emphasis, 
not  only  because  of  a widely-shared  belief  in  bombardment’s  con- 


tribution  to  victory,  but  also  because  of  its  importance  in  establish- 
ing the  United  States  Air  Force  as  a military  service  independent 
of  the  Army.  The  huge  investment  of  men  and  machines  and  the 
effectiveness  of  the  combined  Anglo-American  bomber  offensive 
against  Germany  had  not  been  subjected  to  the  critical  scrutiny 
they  have  since  received.  Nor,  given  the  personalities  involved  and 
the  immediacy  of  the  events,  did  the  authors  question  some  of  the 
command  arrangements.  In  the  tactical  area,  to  give  another 
example,  the  authors  did  not  doubt  the  effect  of  aerial  interdiction 
on  both  the  German  withdrawal  from  Sicily  and  the  allied  land- 
ings at  Anzio. 

Editors  Craven  and  Cate  insisted  that  the  volumes  present  the 
war  through  the  eyes  of  the  ma  jor  commanders,  and  be  based  on 
information  available  to  them  as  important  decisions  were  made. 
At  the  time,  secrecy  still  shrouded  the  Allied  code-breaking  effort. 
While  the  link  between  decoded  message  traffic  and  combat  action 
occasionally  emerges  from  these  pages,  the  authors  lacked  the 
knowledge  to  portray  adequately  the  intelligence  aspects  of  many 
operations,  such  as  the  interdiction  in  1943  of  Axis  supply  lines 
to  Tunisia  and  the  systematic  bombardment,  beginning  in  1944, 
of  the  German  oil  industry. 

All  historical  works  a generation  old  suffer  such  limitations. 
New  information  and  altered  perspective  inevitably  change  the 
emphasis  of  an  historical  account.  Some  accounts  in  these  volumes 
have  been  superseded  by  subsequent  research  and  other  portions 
will  be  superseded  in  the  future.  However,  these  books  met  the 
highest  of  contemporary  professional  standards  of  quality  and 
comprehensiveness.  They  contain  information  and  experience 
that  are  of  great  value  to  the  Air  Force  today  and  to  the  public. 
Together  they  are  the  only  comprehensive  discussion  of  Army  Air 
Forces  activity  in  the  largest  air  war  this  nation  has  ever  waged. 
Until  we  summon  the  resources  to  take  a fresh,  comprehensive 
look  at  the  Army  Air  Forces’  experience  in  World  War  II,  these 
seven  volumes  will  continue  to  serve  us  as  well  for  the  next  quarter 
century  as  they  have  for  the  last. 

RICHARD  H.  KOHN 
Chief,  Office  of  Air  Force  History 


iv 


FOREWORD 


IN  PLANNING  a seven- volume  history  of  The  Army  Air  Forces 
in  World  War  11  the  editors  hoped  to  achieve  a reasonable  degree 
of  unity  in  a complex  narrative  which  seemed  to  divide  itself  into 
three  related  but  sometimes  disparate  themes:  air  operations  against 
the  European  Axis;  air  operations  against  the  Japanese;  and  those 
services  in  the  United  States  and  in  the  several  theaters  which  made 
combat  operations  possible.  To  those  hardy  souls  who  get  through  the 
seven  stout  volumes— and  the  editors  hope  they  are  legion— this  unity 
may  be  discernible;  but  for  readers  whose  endurance  is  less  rugged  or 
whose  interests  are  less  catholic  the  volumes  have  been  so  arranged 
that  the  three  themes  may  be  found  treated  with  some  degree  of  com- 
pleteness in,  respectively,  Volumes  I,  II,  and  III;  Volumes  I,  IV,  and 
V;  and  Volumes  I,  VI,  and  VII.  This  information  has  been  purveyed 
in  an  earlier  volume,  not  without  an  eye  to  its  possible  effect  on  sales; 
it  is  repeated  here  to  fix  the  present  volume  into  the  context  of  the 
whole  series.  For  with  Volume  III  the  story  of  the  AAF’s  war  against 
Hitler’s  Germany  and  his  satellite  nations— and  hence  one  subsection 
of  the  series— is  completed. 

Volume  I dealt  mainly  with  plans  and  preparations;  Volume  II  de- 
scribed the  AAF’s  war  against  Hitler  which  began  in  mid- 1942  in  the 
skies  over  Libya  and  France.  In  the  Mediterranean,  where  U.S.  air 
forces  were  part  of  an  effective  Anglo-American  team,  the  war  went 
well  and  in  a number  of  combined  operations  the  Allies  conquered 
North  Africa,  Sicily,  and  southern  Italy  and  by  the  end  of  1943  were 
confronting  the  enemy,  strongly  intrenched,  along  the  Sangro  and 
Garigliano  rivers  and  were  planning  an  amphibious  operation  de- 
signed to  open  the  road  to  Rome.  In  northwestern  Europe,  however, 
the  AAF  had  scored  no  such  obvious  victories.  Its  only  sustained  oper- 
ations, strategic  bombardment  by  the  Eighth  Air  Force  as  a part  of  the 
Anglo-American  Combined  Bomber  Offensive,  had  not  as  yet  proved 


v 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

decisive  nor  had  the  Allies  achieved  that  superiority  over  the  Luft- 
waffe which  was  prerequisite  to  both  the  strategic  and  the  tactical  air 
mission.  As  1943  wore  out,  the  AAF  was  anxiously  awaiting  the  spell 
of  clear  weather  which  would  allow  a concentrated  series  of  strikes 
against  the  sources  of  German  air  power  and  thus,  in  respect  to  both 
the  ETO  and  MTO,  Volume  II  ended  on  a note  of  expectancy. 

The  present  volume  begins  with  the  winter  bombardment  campaign 
of  1943-44  ar,d  ends  with  the  German  surrender  in  May  1945:  it  tells 
of  air’s  contribution  to  the  slow  drive  up  the  Italian  peninsula;  it  de- 
scribes the  activities  of  the  strategic  bombers  as  they  beat  down  the 
Luftwaffe  and,  turning  to  other  targets,  ruined  the  German  war 
economy;  it  tells  how  tactical  forces  prepared  for  and  supported  the 
landings  in  Normandy  and  then  spearheaded  the  Allied  sweep  across 
France  and,  after  a check  and  a serious  counterattack,  across  Germany. 
The  volume  contains  then  the  climax  of  air  operations,  and  the  de- 
nouement too— for  before  the  armistice  the  strategic  bombers  had  run 
out  of  targets  and  the  Eighth  Air  Force  had  begun  its  redeployment  to 
the  Pacific,  while  tactical  forces  had  little  to  do  beyond  policing  duties. 
The  measure  of  the  air  victory  and  of  the  vast  power  which  made  it 
possible  may  be  seen  in  a typical  American  gesture  at  war’s  end— a 
great  sight-seeing  excursion  in  which  the  Eighth  flew  30,000  of  its 
ground  personnel  over  Europe  to  view  the  damage  wrought  by  the 
planes  they  had  serviced. 

The  chapter  headings  and  subtitles  provide  a working  outline  of  the 
present  volume.  Roughly,  these  may  be  grouped  around  four  main 
topics:  (1)  the  air  war  in  Italy;  (2)  the  strategic  bombing  campaign; 
(3)  tactical  operations  in  support  of  the  land  armies  from  the  Cotentin 
to  the  Elbe;  and  (4)  supporting  operations  of  various  sorts. 

The  war  in  Italy  brought  more  than  its  share  of  disappointments  to 
the  Allies.  For  a year  after  the  TORCH  landings  the  Mediterranean 
had  been  the  active  theater  for  the  Allied  forces  as  they  pushed,  with 
only  temporary  checks,  from  Oran  and  Casablanca  and  from  Egypt  to 
a line  well  above  Naples.  But  as  this  volume  opens  they  had  bogged 
down,  thwarted  in  their  effort  to  break  through  to  Rome  by  rugged 
terrain,  rugged  weather,  and  a rugged  German  defense.  With  the 
OVERLORD  invasion  of  France  imminent,  the  Mediterranean  no 
longer  had  first  priority  for  resources;  it  became,  and  was  to  remain,  a 
secondary  theater. 

Nevertheless,  in  early  1944  the  Allies  in  Italy  enjoyed  a marked 


vi 


FOREWORD 


superiority  over  the  Germans  in  air  power  and  this  would  increase  in 
time.  The  newly  established  Mediterranean  Allied  Air  Forces,  which 
Eaker  had  come  down  from  England  to  command,  was  a complex 
organization  in  which  the  Twelfth  and  Fifteenth  Air  Forces  were  the 
principal  U.S.  components.  The  Twelfth  was  to  carry  a heavy  re- 
sponsibility for  tactical  operations  and  the  Fifteenth,  though  engaging 
occasionally  in  like  activities,  was  to  find  its  primary  role  in  assisting 
the  Eighth  and  RAF’s  Bomber  Command  in  the  Combined  Bomber 
Offensive. 

Both  forces  participated  in  the  first  large-scale  endeavor  to  break 
the  stalemate,  the  landing  at  Anzio.  They  cut  communications  lines 
into  the  battle  area,  softened  defenses,  and  provided— in  spite  of  the 
distance  of  their  fighter  bases  from  Anzio— an  effective  cover  for  the 
landings.  The  lodgment  was  made  but  Operation  SHINGLE,  suc- 
cessful as  an  amphibious  assault,  failed  in  its  purpose  of  forcing  the 
Germans  to  withdraw  from  their  Gustav  Line,  and  the  Anzio  beach- 
head became  a liability  whose  defense  put  a heavy  drain  on  air  and 
ground  resources.  Winter  weather  severely  handicapped  the  air  war; 
its  only  useful  function  was  to  ease  a difficult  command  decision  in 
February— whether  to  send  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  on  the  long- 
awaited  attacks  on  German  aircraft  factories  or  to  use  it  tactically 
to  help  protect  the  endangered  beachhead  at  Anzio. 

Two  spectacular  air  operations  after  Anzio  have  attracted  a degree 
of  attention  wholly  incommensurate  with  their  military  importance. 
On  15  February  U.S.  bombers  destroyed  the  Benedictine  abbey  at 
Monte  Cassino,  hallowed  throughout  Christendom  as  the  wellspring 
of  western  monasticism.  Eaker  was  opposed  to  the  strike,  though  he 
thought  the  monastery  was  being  used  by  German  troops,  an  assump- 
tion which  is  still  being  debated.  The  reluctance  of  AAF  leaders  to 
bomb  cultural  or  historical  monuments  is  sufficiently  documented  in 
this  history— witness  the  extreme  care  exercised  in  hitting  military 
targets  at  Rome;  the  tragedy  in  the  case  of  Monte  Cassino  is  made 
more  bitter  by  its  futility  as  a military  act. 

The  same  was  true  at  the  town  of  Cassino  which  was  literally  razed 
by  U.S.  bombers  on  15  March  in  an  effort  to  crack  the 'Gustav  Line. 
Here  Eaker  was  flatly  against  a tactic  which  he  thought  more  likely 
to  impede,  by  craters  and  rubble,  than  to  help  the  advance  of  armor; 
when  ground  forces  moved  in  too  slowly  to  take  advantage  of  the 
momentary  shock  the  heavy  pounding  gave  German  defenders,  the 

vii 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


operation  failed  as  he  had  predicted.  Criticisms  of  air  power  that  came 
afterward  were  not  always  fair,  since  the  attack  was  clearly  a misuse 
of  a weapon;  unfortunately  the  lesson  was  not  wholly  absorbed  and 
similar  errors  were  to  be  repeated  later. 

With  the  coming  of  spring,  air  operations  increased  in  intensity  as 
MAAF  inaugurated  STRANGLE,  an  appropriately  labeled  opera- 
tion designed  to  choke  off  the  enemy’s  communications  so  that  his 
Gustav  Line  might  be  forced  when  he  had  consumed  reserve  supplies 
at  the  front.  After  much  debate  over  rival  suggestions— whether  to 
concentrate  on  bridges  or  on  marshalling  yards— the  issue  was  settled 
by  a latitudinarian  compromise  which  listed  for  simultaneous  attack 
all  features  of  the  railroad  system:  bridges,  yards,  tunnels,  tracks,  roll- 
ing stock,  and  shops,  and  coastal  shipping  as  well.  Launched  officially 
on  19  March,  STRANGLE  enjoyed  an  early  success  which  grew 
more  marked  as  bombers  and  fighter-bombers  increased  the  accuracy 
of  their  strikes.  Severely  hampered  in  their  use  of  railroads,  the  Ger- 
mans came  to  depend  more  heavily  upon  M/T  but  as  trucks  were  di- 
verted to  the  long  north-south  haul  the  number  available  for  lateral 
distribution  shrank.  Thus  when  a heavy  ground  offensive  (DIADEM, 
jumped  off  1 2 May)  forced  the  Germans  to  expend  more  supplies  at 
the  front  the  carefully  hoarded  reserves  were  quickly  depleted  and 
the  Allies  cracked  the  line,  linking  up  with  the  Anzio  beachhead 
which  at  last  began  to  pay  dividends.  Tactical  air  forces  rendered  close 
support  in  the  assault  but  it  was  their  sustained  interdiction  program 
that  turned  the  trick.  By  4 June  the  Allies  had  reached  Rome  and 
thereafter  the  German  retreat  became  a rout  which  seemed  to  presage 
an  early  German  collapse  in  Italy.  In  the  air  especially  the  Allies  en- 
joyed an  overwhelming  superiority;  the  Germans  came  to  depend 
more  upon  heavily  reinforced  AA  forces  than  upon  fighter  defense, 
until  MAAF  claims  of  enemy  planes  destroyed  were  often  less  than 
Allied  losses.  An  even  stronger  defense  for  the  enemy  was  the  weather 
which  worsened  at  the  end  of  June;  by  August  the  Germans  had  dug 
in  again  along  the  Gothic  Line.  An  Allied  attempt  to  sever  all  com- 
munications in  the  Po  Valley  (MALLORY  MAJOR)  achieved  a con- 
siderable success  but  it  was  impossible  to  choke  off  supplies  in  the 
broad  Lombard  plain  as  it  had  been  in  the  narrow  peninsula  and  the 
enemy  held  tenaciously  to  his  new  line. 

The  Allied  cause  in  Italy  was  weakened  by  the  diversion  of  air  and 
ground  forces  for  the  invasion  of  southern  France  (DRAGOON). 

viii 


FOREWORD 


This  assault,  long  a matter  of  contention  among  the  Americans,  the 
British,  and  the  Russians,  was  postponed  until  August  but  moved 
thereafter  rapidly  enough.  It  offered  little  that  was  novel  to  combined 
forces  who  had  gone  over  half-a-dozen  beaches  in  the  MTO  and  in 
size  it  was  dwarfed  by  the  recent  OVERLORD  landings.  There  had 
been  the  familiar  pattern  of  preparation:  strikes  at  communications  by 
which  enemy  reinforcements  might  move  in;  attacks  on  German  air 
installations  (only  light  blows  were  required  here);  and  bombing  of 
coastal  defenses.  Planes  based  in  Italy  and  Corsica  participated  in  these 
pre-invasion  activities  and  in  providing  cover  for  the  landings.  Several 
successful  airborne  operations  gave  clear  indication  of  how  much  had 
been  learned  since  the  tragic  attempts  in  Sicily.  XII  TAC  stayed  with 
the  Seventh  Army,  helped  chase  the  Germans  up  the  Rhone  Valley 
and  beyond  until  by  early  September  they  pulled  up  just  short  of 
Belfort. 

In  Italy,  as  in  northwestern  Europe,  Allied  hopes  of  an  early  victory 
continued  strong  well  into  September  as  the  Fifth  Army  crossed  the 
Arno  and  broke  through  segments  of  the  Gothic  Line  and  the  Eighth 
Army  took  Rimini.  MAAF’s  tasks  were  to  sever  escape  routes,  partic- 
ularly at  the  Po,  and  to  help  ground  forces  thrust  the  enemy  back  on 
those  closed  exits.  But  the  armies,  weakened  by  transfers  and  tired  by 
long  battles,  could  not  breach  the  stubborn  German  defense  and  in 
October  it  was  no  longer  a question  of  cutting  the  enemy’s  lines  of 
retreat;  the  interdiction  program  continued  but  priorities  now  favored 
more  northerly  lines  in  an  effort  to  cut  off  supplies  coming  from  north 
of  the  Alps  via  the  Brenner  and  other  northeast  passes  while  fighter- 
bombers  attempted  to  destroy  supply  dumps  in  the  forward  area. 

Allied  operations  had  been  handicapped  by  much  wet  weather 
which  slowed  the  ground  advance  and  which  held  back  the  bombers 
often  enough  to  allow  the  Germans  to  repair  bridges  and  rail  lines. 
Allied  air  forces,  weakened  by  diversions  in  favor  of  DRAGOON, 
suffered  further  losses  as  additional  bomber  and  fighter-bomber  units 
were  sent  to  France  and  to  the  Pacific.  Indeed,  throughout  autumn 
and  winter  there  was  much  sentiment  in  favor  of  moving  all  AAF 

O 

forces  in  Italy  up  into  France,  and  the  Fifth  Army  as  well.  Though 
this  drastic  step  was  never  taken,  the  very  threat,  coupled  with  the 
piecemeal  cannibalization  of  Twelfth  Air  Force,  brought  to  the  sev- 
eral MTO  headquarters  an  air  of  uncertainty  which  lasted  until  the 
eve  of  victory.  Internal  changes  in  the  command  structure—the  estab- 


IX 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

lishment  of  XXII  TAC  on  19  October  and  the  wholesale  reshuffling  of 
commanders  when  Eaker  went  back  to  the  States  in  March  1945— 
seem  to  have  had  less  effect  on  operations  than  transfers  of  combat 
and  service  units. 

At  any  rate,  the  Italian  campaign  became  to  Allied  soldiers  “the  for- 
gotten war.”  Air  preparations  for  a winter  attack  on  the  German  lines 
proved  abortive  when  a counterattack  launched  by  Kesselring  on  26 
December  induced  MTO  Headquarters  to  cancel  the  planned  drive. 
Thereafter  the  Allies  went  on  the  defensive  and  for  three  months 
there  was  little  ground  activity.  This  threw  upon  air  the  main  burden 
of  the  theater  directive  to  maintain  constant  pressure  upon  the  enemy, 
and  the  280  combat  squadrons  of  MAAF  became  “by  far  the  most 
potent  Allied  weapon  in  the  Mediterranean.”  Except  for  a brief  period 
in  November  when  Fascist  Italian  air  units  trained  in  Germany  gave 
a futile  challenge,  MAAF  was  untroubled  by  enemy  air  opposition; 
the  general  practice  of  sending  out  medium  bombers  without  escort 
was  a taunting  symbol  of  the  impotence  of  the  GAF. 

The  long-anticipated  withdrawal  of  German  divisions  toward  the 
Reich  began  on  23  January  and  thereafter  MATAF  (supported  occa- 
sionally by  SAF)  intensified  efforts  to  interdict  the  routes  toward  the 
Alpine  passes.  Other  communications  were  cut  and  when  the  final 
Allied  offensive  jumped  off  in  April,  XXII  TAC  and  DAF  greatly 
aided  the  breakthrough  by  a tremendous  effort  against  German  posi- 
tions. So  thoroughly  had  communications  been  disrupted,  especially 
at  the  Po,  that  there  was  no  chance  of  an  orderly  retreat  to  a new 
line  and  the  total  surrender  came  on  2 May,  just  a year  after  the  begin- 
ning of  the  punch  through  the  Gustav  Line. 

The  Fifteenth  had  meanwhile  been  engaged  in  strategic  operations 
(which  will  be  described  presently)  and,  with  the  Balkan  Air  Force, 
in  supporting  the  Russian  advance  which  drove  the  Axis  powers  from 
Rumania,  Bulgaria,  Greece,  Yugoslavia,  and  part  of  Hungary.  Bomb- 
ing airdromes,  supply  centers,  and  rail  targets,  MAAF  forces  encoun- 
tered the  usual  difficulties  in  cooperating  with  an  ally  who  would  not 
allow  any  real  system  of  liaison  to  be  established  or  any  rationally  de- 
termined bomb  line. 

The  subtitle  of  the  present  volume  suggests  that  it  begins  with 
January  1944.  Actually  the  narrative  reviews  briefly  the  strategic  air 
operations  of  the  last  two  months  of  1943.  The  Eighth  Air  Force  had 
begun  its  attack  against  the  German  war  machine  on  17  August  1942. 


x 


FOREWORD 


Dedicated  to  the  principle  of  high-altitude  daylight  precision  bom- 
bardment the  Eighth  had  with  difficulty  resisted  outside  pressure  to 
change  its  tactics,  and  diversion  of  forces  to  North  Africa  and  of 
effort  to  unprofitable  attacks  on  U-boat  pens  had  interfered  with  its 
primary  mission.  The  Casablanca  Directive  of  2 1 January  1943  had  in- 
sured the  continuation  of  strategic  bombardment  in  the  Combined 
Bomber  Offensive  and  with  growing  forces  the  Eighth  had  increased 
the  weight  and  effectiveness  of  its  attacks  during  spring  and  sum- 
mer 1943. 

In  spite  of  the  fine  defensive  qualities  shown  by  B-i7’s  and  B-24’s 
flying  in  large  formations,  the  GAF  had  on  occasion  taken  heavy  toll 
of  the  U.S.  bombers  and  as  German  fighter  strength  in  the  west  in- 
creased it  had  become  apparent  that  an  all-out  attack  on  Nazi  air 
power  would  be  a necessary  preliminary  to  any  successful  strategic 
bombardment  campaign  and  to  the  great  invasion  of  Europe  planned 
for  the  spring  of  1 944.  During  the  autumn  of  1 943  weather  prevented 
any  such  attack  and,  as  the  opening  chapter  shows,  the  Eighth  turned 
instead  to  an  experiment  with  radar  bombing.  Hopes  based  on  initial 
success  were  not  borne  out  by  later  missions;  here  as  in  most  cases  in- 
volving use  of  intricate  instruments  the  majority  of  crews  never  suc- 
ceeded in  getting  maximum  results  from  their  equipment.  The  only 
justification  was  the  assumption  that  blind  bombing  was  better  than  no 
bombing  and  it  is  hard  to  avoid  the  conclusion  that  the  “numbers 
racket”— pressure  from  Washington  to  get  more  planes  over  Europe— 
was  responsible  for  some  wasted  effort.  A more  fruitful  experiment  of 
the  period  was  concerned  with  the  development  of  long-range  fighter 
escorts.  The  failure  to  produce  such  a plane  had  been  one  of  the  AAF’s 
most  serious  mistakes  and  now  under  pressure  of  necessity  engineers 
in  the  ETO  and  the  United  States  combined  to  improve  and  enlarge 
auxiliary  tanks  which  gave  seven-league  boots  to  conventional  fighters 
—the  P-38,  P-47,  and  especially  the  P-51.  To  Goering’s  discomfiture 
these  fighters  eventually  went  to  Berlin  and  beyond  and  mixed  it  with 
German  interceptors  on  better  than  even  terms,  but  it  was  months  be- 
fore there  were  enough  of  them  to  provide  adequate  protection. 

By  the  beginning  of  1944  the  Eighth  Air  Force  in  England  and  the 
Fifteenth  in  Italy  were  approaching  planned  strength.  An  inter-theater 
headquarters,  Gen.  Carl  Spaatz’s  U.S.  Strategic  Air  Forces  in  Europe, 
enhanced  the  flexibility  inherent  in  the  widely  based  heavy  bombers 
with  their  threat  of  coordinated  blows.  In  November  1943  Eighth  Air 


xi 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


Force  had  drafted  a plan  (ARGUMENT)  for  a series  of  closely 
spaced  attacks  against  about  a dozen  factories  producing  fighter  com- 
ponents or  fighters— Me- 109 ’s  and  -no’s,  Ju-88’s  and  -188’s,  and 
FW-ipo’s.  The  program  would  need  a succession  of  half-a-dozen 
clear  days  and  at  last,  on  19  February,  such  a period  was  predicted. 
USSTAF  laid  on  the  first  missions  next  day  and  in  less  than  a week 
had  dispatched  more  than  3,300  sorties  from  the  Eighth,  500  from  the 
Fifteenth.  Bombing  varied  from  excellent  to  fair  but  the  over-all  re- 
sults were  certainly  great  and  perhaps  decisive.  It  is  difficult  even  now 
to  judge  exactly  “how  big  was  the  Big  Week.”  German  fighter  pro- 
duction was  to  increase  rather  than  decrease  during  1944  but  the  sig- 
nificant point  is  that  production  did  not  keep  up  with  the  planned 
schedule  and  for  that  failure  the  Big  Week  and  subsequent  bomber 
attacks  were  largely  responsible. 

In  last  analysis  the  pragmatic  test  is  perhaps  the  best:  never  after 
February  was  the  Luftwaffe  to  be  the  menace  it  had  been;  though  it 
would  inflict  heavy  losses  at  times  Goering’s  force  had  lost  control  of 
the  skies  over  Europe.  In  this  victory  over  the  GAF  other  factors 
besides  the  bombing  of  aircraft  plants  must  be  considered:  attacks  on 
airfields  and  losses  inflicted  in  battle.  Here  tactical  air  forces  and  the 
heavies’  “little  brothers,”  the  fighter  escorts,  played  their  part,  as  did 
the  RAF.  The  Big  Week  cost  USSTAF  226  heavy  bombers  and  28 
fighters  destroyed  but  the  Luftwaffe  suffered  even  more  heavily  and 
was  to  continue  to  suffer  whenever  challenging  a well-escorted  bomb- 
er formation. 

ARGUMENT  was  considered  by  the  AAF  as  a prerequisite  for  the 
systematic  destruction  of  carefully  determined  segments  of  the  Nazi 
war  economy,  but  the  heavies  were  not  allowed  to  turn  immediately 
to  that  program.  The  main  weight  of  their  efforts  during  the  early 
spring  was  expended  on  nonstrategic  objectives  in  attacks  against 
V-weapon  installations  and  in  strikes  preparatory  to  the  invasion.  It 
had  long  been  agreed  that  the  strategic  arm  should  be  used  in  support 
of  the  landings  until  the  beachhead  was  secured  and  thereafter  as 
needed  by  the  armies,  and  with  this  there  was  no  argument  in 
USSTAF.  But  there  was  long  debate  over  the  best  possible  use  of  the 
heavies,  Spaatz  favoring  an  all-out  attack  on  the  oil  industry  but  los- 
ing to  those  who  preferred  an  extensive  campaign  against  communi- 
cations. The  subordination  of  strategic  forces  to  the  invasion  involved 
no  command  difficulties,  however,  when  in  March  Eisenhower  as  su- 

xii 


FOREWORD 


preme  commander  took  over  USSTAF  along  with  RAF  Bomber 
Command  and  Allied  Expeditionary  Air  Forces.  Spaatz  and  many  of 
his  senior  officers  had  served  under  Eisenhower  in  the  Mediterranean 
and  the  formal  chain  of  command  was  strengthened  by  the  great 
mutual  understanding  and  respect  that  existed  between  SHAEF  and 
USSTAF. 

Tactical  demands  on  the  heavies  continued  after  D-day,  with  a 
lasting  responsibility  for  attacks  on  airdromes  and  for  carpet  bombing 
for  the  ground  forces;  but  late  in  June  USSTAF  was  able  to  devote 
more  attention  to  strategic  targets.  The  oil  campaign  had  begun  ear- 
lier, in  a small  way:  in  April  for  the  Fifteenth,  in  May  for  the  Eighth. 
Now  to  Spaatz’s  satisfaction  this  target  system  assumed  first  priority 
as  the  Eighth  joined  the  RAF  in  assaults  on  synthetic  plants  in  Ger- 
many. The  Fifteenth  continued  to  return  to  Ploesti  and  to  installations 
in  Hungary,  Austria,  and  eastern  Germany  with  such  pertinacity  that 
when  the  Russians  overran  Rumania  the  Ploesti  refineries  were  idle 
and  ruined. 

The  success  of  the  oil  campaign  could  be  gauged  immediately  by 
shortages  of  fuel  which  were  discernible  in  German  operations  and  as 
well  by  the  desperate  efforts  made  to  minimize  the  effectiveness  of  the 
attacks.  Passive  defenses  were  used  extensively,  and  AA  guns  were  clus- 
tered around  oil  centers  so  heavily  that  for  the  Eighth  Air  Force  flak 
became  a more  dangerous  weapon  than  the  fighter,  and  bomber  forma- 
tions were  opened  up  to  reduce  losses  from  ground  fire.  Fighters  still 
offered  rugged  resistance  on  occasion  and  the  Fifteenth  especially  suf- 
fered from  their  interceptions  so  that  it  was  necessary  to  renew  attacks 
on  factories  producing  conventional  aircraft  as  well  as  jet  planes,  not 
yet  in  combat  but  a threat  greatly  feared  by  Allied  airmen.  The  forces 
sent  out  during  the  summer  were  huge  and  the  tempo  of  operations 
fast.  The  telling  pace  created  problems  of  morale  among  overworked 
aircrews;  there  were  charges  that  some  crews  deliberately  sought 
refuge  in  neutral  countries— Switzerland  and  Sweden— but  careful  in- 
vestigation showed  these  charges  groundless. 

The  summer  of  1944  witnessed  an  experiment  in  cooperation  with 
the  Russians  that  was  more  enlightening  than  fruitful,  an  effort  to 
utilize  airdromes  in  Soviet-held  territory  as  alternate  bases  for  heavies 
from  England  or  Italy.  The  concept  of  shuttle  bombing,  well  liked  by 
the  AAF,  was  in  this  case  particularly  attractive  to  Arnold  and  other 
air  commanders  who  hoped  thus  to  lay  under  heavy  attack  industrial 

xiii 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


plants  in  eastern  Germany,  to  foster  closer  relations  with  the  Soviets, 
and  to  impress  them  with  the  importance  of  strategic  bombardment  so 
that  they  might  furnish  bases  in  Siberia  for  B-29  attacks  against  Japan. 
Stalin  gave  full  verbal  consent  to  the  project  but  subordinate  officials 
moved  slowly  and  it  taxed  American  patience  to  prepare  three  airfields 
for  heavy  bomber  use.  A number  of  missions  were  staged  from  these 
fields,  some  with  fair  success  but  none  of  great  significance.  Certainly 
none  was  as  brilliant  an  operation  as  the  German  night  attack  on  the 
airdrome  at  Poltava  which  caught  the  B-iy’s  on  the  ground,  destroy- 
ing forty-three  and  damaging  twenty-six.  Russian  interest,  never  very 
warm,  cooled  perceptibly.  The  Soviet  command  limited  unreasonably 
(or  so  the  AAF  thought)  the  choice  of  targets  and  the  venture  fizzled 
out  in  an  argument  over  whether  heavies  from  the  Russia  bases  should 
be  allowed  to  supply  the  forces  of  Gen.  Bor-Komorowski,  be- 
leaguered in  Warsaw.  Altogether  the  experiment  was  of  little  impor- 
tance tactically  and  early  estimates  that  it  had  fostered  better  relations 
between  the  two  allies  were  overly  optimistic.  Americans  did  learn 
something  of  the  Russian’s  genius  for  obstruction  and  one  may  won- 
der if  the  code  name  for  the  project,  FRANTIC,  was  chosen  with 
some  foreknowledge  of  the  frayed  nerves  which  would  be  character- 
istic of  men  imbued  with  Arnold’s  hurry-up  pace  when  faced  with  the 
Russian  slowdown.  Other  relations  between  the  AAF  and  the  Soviets, 
particularly  in  regard  to  U.S.  efforts  to  get  agreement  on  a bomb  line, 
were  equally  frustrating. 

In  September  control  of  the  strategic  forces  reverted  to  the  CCS, 
not  without  opposition  from  Eisenhower  and  most  of  the  air  leaders, 
who  had  suffered  little  in  the  way  of  interference  from  SFIAEF.  Inso- 
far as  USSTAF  was  concerned,  the  change  in  command  structure 
made  little  practical  difference;  the  U.S.  heavies  continued  to  render 
support  to  the  ground  forces  on  occasion  but  were  able  to  devote  an 
increasing  share  of  their  missions  to  strategic  targets.  By  the  end  of 
September  hopes  of  an  immediate  invasion  of  the  Reich  and  of  an  early 
collapse  of  the  Nazi  government  had  faded;  the  Allied  armies  had  out- 
run their  supply  lines  and  as  they  regrouped  and  set  up  a more  stable 
logistical  system  it  was  the  strategic  air  forces  alone  which  carried  the 
war  to  the  German  homeland.  With  unprecedented  power  available 
various  plans  were  discussed  for  concentrated  attacks  on  German 
population  areas  that  might  crush  the  will  to  resist.  Usually  Arnold, 
Spaatz,  and  other  top  commanders  in  the  AAF  opposed  these  plans  as 

xiv 


FOREWORD 


contrary  to  their  doctrines  of  precision  bombing;  the  record  is  clear 
enough  on  their  often-reiterated  objection  to  terror  or  morale  bomb- 
ing. Their  concern  with  public  opinion  in  America  and  in  Germany 
and  with  what  “history”  would  say  contrasts  strikingly  with  the  non- 
chalance with  which  area  bombing  was  introduced  in  Japan,  and  it  is 
interesting  to  speculate  as  to  whether  the  practice  in  the  Pacific  war 
was  responsible  for  the  change  in  policy  for  Germany  during  the 
months  just  before  V-E  Day. 

The  directive  under  which  USSTAF  opened  its  autumn  campaign 
put  oil  in  first  priority.  Heavy  fighting  during  summer  had  depleted 
German  fuel  reserves  and  the  damage  to  refineries  had  brought  pro- 
duction to  a low  ebb  by  September;  but  Germany  was  making  the  most 
of  its  great  recuperative  powers  and  throughout  the  autumn  (especial- 
ly in  November)  the  Eighth  and  Fifteenth  and  RAF’s  Bomber  Com- 
mand continued  to  hammer  steadily  and  heavily  at  refineries  with  an 
over-all  success  which  was  not  fully  appreciated  at  the  time.  In  second 
category  came  ordnance,  armored  vehicles,  and  motor  transport  in  an 
effort  to  blast  those  factories  which  would  equip  the  new  people’s 
army.  This  target  system  was  scratched  as  unprofitable  after  a brief 
trial;  post-war  investigations  suggest  that  further  attention  to  the 
munition  plants  might  have  paid  big  dividends.  As  the  armies  prepared 
for  a late  autumn  offensive  the  heavies,  along  with  the  tactical  air  com- 
mands, were  thrown  against  the  German  railroad  system,  not  without 
some  misgivings  on  the  part  of  USSTAF,  where  it  was  feared  that  the 
system  was  too  complex  and  flexible  to  be  destroyed.  Efforts  at  the 
time  could  not  cut  off  shipments  of  military  goods  but  they  did  mini- 
mize civilian  traffic  and  this  was  the  begining  of  the  internal  collapse 
of  the  Nazi  economy. 

USSTAF  during  the  autumn  returned  to  attack  aircraft  factories 
and,  more  often  than  was  customary  with  heavies,  airfields.  Some  of 
this  effort  was  against  jet  plants  and  fields,  but  conventional  single- 
engine fighters  had  again  become  a threat  as  the  Germans  concen- 
trated on  production  of  Me-iop’s  and  FW- 190’s  and  shifted  more  of 
their  units  from  the  eastern  front  to  the  Reich.  They  had  plenty  of 
fighters  (and  Allied  estimates  were  surprisingly  accurate)  but  had  lost 
many  of  their  skilled  pilots.  There  was  not  enough  fuel  for  an  ade- 
quate training  program  or  for  intercepting  each  bomber  formation  but 
occasionally  the  Luftwaffe  would  put  up  a nasty  fight. 

When  the  counterattack  in  the  Ardennes  came  in  December  strate- 


xv 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

gic  forces  were  thrown  into  the  battle.  The  ability  of  the  Nazis  to 
mount  so  formidable  an  attack  brought  on  a great  deal  of  soul-search- 
ing among  air  leaders  and  with  them,  as  with  ground  commanders, 
there  was  a swing  from  the  overconfidence  of  early  fall  to  an  unwar- 
ranted pessimism.  Actually,  the  Ardennes  offensive  had  drained  the 
Nazi  machine  dry  and  misgivings  about  the  success  of  the  strategic 
bomber  programs  against  oil,  transportation,  and  armaments  were  not 
justified  by  conditions  in  the  Reich.  A new  directive  for  the  bomber 
campaign  issued  on  12  January  listed  oil,  railroads,  tank  factories, 
counter-air  strikes,  support  of  ground  forces,  and  yards  producing 
new-type  submarines  in  that  order  of  priority.  Technically  support  of 
ground  forces  might  take  precedence  over  other  objectives  and  during 
January  accounted  for  three-fourths  of  USSTAF  missions,  but  much 
of  that  effort  was  expended  against  rail  communications.  In  the  west 
rail  objectives  were  more  limited  in  area  and  more  concentrated  than 
in  previous  efforts  to  knock  out  the  whole  German  network.  In  the 
southeast  the  Fifteenth  aided  the  advance  of  Russian  armies  by  striking 
transportation  centers  in  Yugoslavia,  Hungary,  and  Austria  while  con- 
tinuing its  homework  for  the  Allies  in  Italy.  As  in  the  oil  campaign, 
this  air  force,  overshadowed  in  publicity  by  the  older  and  larger 
Eighth,  conducted  its  missions  with  skill  and  persistence. 

England-based  bombers  also  aided  the  Russian  armies  by  a series  of 
great  strikes  against  German  cities  where  rail  yards  were  gorged  with 
trains  carrying  troops  to  the  front  and  evacuating  refugees  from  the 
east.  Berlin,  Leipzig,  Dresden,  and  other  cities  were  hit  by  mighty 
formations  in  attacks  which,  especially  in  the  case  of  Dresden,  drew 
the  sort  of  criticism  which  the  AAF  had  long  feared.  By  this  time, 
however,  USSTAF  even  experimented  briefly  with  the  idea  of  send- 
ing out  radar-controlled  war-weary  B-iy’s  filled  with  explosives.  With 
80  per  cent  of  the  very  heavy  bomb  tonnage  in  February  dropped  by 
radar,  precision  bombing  was  no  longer  the  shibboleth  it  had  once 
been  and  the  accidental  bombing  of  Schaffhausen  in  Switzerland  was  a 
symbol  of  the  fury  of  the  air  war  in  the  desperate  effort  to  knock  out 
Germany.  The  CLARION  operation  of  22  February,  in  preparation 
for  a great  ground  offensive,  was  a moderately  successful  variation  of 
the  sort  of  wide-ranging  attack,  advocated  during  the  previous 
autumn,  which  would  bring  the  war  home  to  towns  and  villages 
previously  undisturbed. 

In  March,  with  the  ground  armies  making  progress  on  all  fronts, 


xvi 


FOREWORD 


the  heavies  were  able  to  return  to  strategic  targets  though  they  partici- 
pated in  the  successful  attempt  to  isolate  the  Ruhr  which  began  on  2 1 
March.  Strategic  targets  became  less  numerous  as  one  industrial 
organization  after  another  was  scratched  from  the  list.  On  1 6 April, 
with  few  profitable  targets  left,  the  bomber  offensive  was  officially  de- 
clared finished  though  several  missions  were  dispatched  thereafter.  For 
it  there  was  no  dramatic  finish  marked  by  a surrender  or  an  armistice 
but  of  its  success  the  gutted  shell  of  German  industry  was  a grim 
reminder. 

Meanwhile  the  advance  of  the  Allied  armies  from  the  English  Chan- 
nel to  the  Elbe  had  been  made  possible  by  the  operations  of  the  tacti- 
cal air  forces,  operations  of  such  magnitude  and  variety  that  in  their 
context  one  reads  with  some  perplexity  post-war  charges  that  the  AAF 
was  dominated  wholly  by  its  concept  of  strategic  bombardment.  Plan- 
ning for  the  OVERLORD  invasion  had  been  begun  by  a combined 
Anglo-American  team  early  in  1943  and  had  continued  at  an  acceler- 
ating pace  in  1944.  The  detailed  plan  with  its  annexes  is  a complex 
document  of  extraordinary  interest— and  in  passing  one  may  hope  that 
in  time  security  regulations  will  permit  the  publication  in  full  of  this  or 
some  similar  plan  for  the  edification  of  the  public;  the  science  of  war 
is  to  be  seen  in  its  most  impressive  form  in  such  an  attempt  to  predict 
and  organize  requisite  forces. 

The  command  arrangement  provided,  as  has  been  shown  above,  that 
both  strategic  and  tactical  forces  should  come  under  Eisenhower’s 
control  in  advance  of  the  invasion.  Tactical  forces,  British  and  Amer- 
ican alike,  were  united  under  AEAF  with  Air  Marshal  Leigh-Mallory 
in  command.  This  headquarters  was  an  unfortunate  exception  to  the 
rule  of  harmonious  command  relations  in  combined  Anglo-American 
organizations.  A reviewer  of  an  earlier  volume  objected  mildly  to  the 
tendency  of  our  authors  to  go  into  detail  in  discussing  command  rela- 
tions and  the  personalities  which  made  for  their  success  or  failure. 
Here  one  may  suggest,  without  belaboring  the  point,  that  the  person- 
ality of  Leigh-Mallory  and  the  reaction  of  American  airmen  to  his 
control  of  their  combat  units  were  factors  of  more  than  passing 
interest. 

It  had  been  planned  originally  that  AAF  tactical  units  would 
operate  as  part  of  an  expanded  Eighth  Air  Force,  but  the  final  decision 
was  to  establish  a separate  tactical  force.  Its  numerical  designation,  its 
commander  (Brereton),  and  the  nucleus  of  its  staff  were  taken  from 


xvn 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

the  old  Ninth  Air  Force  of  the  desert  war.  A few  medium  bomber 
groups  were  drawn  from  VIII  Air  Support  Command  but  almost  all 
of  its  combat  units  came  fresh  from  the  States  during  the  months 
immediately  preceding  OVERLORD,  a fact  which  determined  in 
large  measure  the  nature  of  its  extensive  training  program  and  of  its 
early  operations.  The  Ninth’s  internal  structure,  highly  complex,  was 
arranged  along  functional  lines  with  an  emphasis  on  flexibility  and 
mobility.  Its  numerous  combat  units  were  to  be  grouped  into  the  tacti- 
cal air  commands  (IX,  XIX,  XXIX  TAC’s),  each  of  which  was  to  be 
attached  to  an  army  on  the  continent,  but  with  the  understanding  that 
units  would  be  shifted  from  one  to  the  other  as  needed. 

Pre-invasion  operations  consisted  of  attacks  on  coastal  defenses, 
against  airdromes,  against  communications,  and  against  V-weapon 
sites.  So  thorough  were  these  preparations  and  so  skilful  was  the 
planning  that  D-day,  for  all  its  tremendous  air  effort,  went  off  with 
relative  smoothness.  An  airborne  operation  of  unprecedented  magni- 
tude preceded  the  touchdown  of  seaborne  troops  and,  with  losses  that 
were  heavy  enough  but  well  under  expectations,  contributed  notably 
to  the  success  of  the  landings.  Fighters  assigned  to  cover  the  am- 
phibious assault  found  little  to  do,  for  the  Luftwaffe  made  no  serious 
effort  to  attack  the  war’s  greatest  invasion  fleet.  This  lethargy  on  the 
part  of  the  GAF  was  in  itself  proof  of  the  success  of  attacks  on  air- 
craft factories,  airdromes,  and  on  planes  in  flight  and  it  justified  the 
great  resources  thrown  into  the  air  war.  The  one  air  operation  on 
D-day  that  proved  unsuccessful  was  the  bombardment  of  defense 
positions  on  OMAHA  beach  by  Eighth  Air  Force  heavies,  an  attack 
laid  on  at  the  insistence  of  ground  commanders  and  against  the  better 
judgment  of  AAF  leaders. 

In  the  struggle  to  consolidate  the  beachhead  and  secure  the  whole 
of  the  Cotentin,  Ninth  Air  Force  furnished  close  support  first  with 
planes  flying  out  of  England,  then  by  the  roulement  method  from 
hastily  prepared  strips  near  the  front,  and  finally  from  bases  set  up  in 
Normandy  as  unit  after  unit  moved  across  the  Channel.  At  the  instiga- 
tion of  the  ground  commanders,  the  AAF  put  on  a big  show  calcu- 
lated to  facilitate  the  capture  of  the  key  port  of  Cherbourg.  The  hast- 
ily conceived  operation  was  not  a model  of  planning  or  of  air-ground 
cooperation  and  though  it  eased  somewhat  the  capture  of  Cherbourg 
the  attack,  like  most  of  the  saturation  bombings  of  strongly  defended 
enemy  positions,  was  only  moderately  successful.  Air’s  most  impor- 


xvm 


FOREWORD 


tant  contribution  was  the  isolation  of  the  battlefield  and  here,  follow- 
ing accepted  doctrines,  the  AAF  was  spectacularly  successful.  Medi- 
ums and  fighter-bombers  cut  every  rail  bridge  over  the  Seine  between 
Paris  and  Rouen  and,  when  deception  was  no  longer  paramount,  they 
scored  heavily  on  crossings  over  the  Loire;  marshalling  yards  and  rail 
lines  in  a wide  area  were  smashed.  The  difficulty  of  moving  up  German 
reinforcements  and  the  decisive  effect  the  delays  had  on  the  battle  for 
Normandy  were  attested  by  practically  every  enemy  general  inter- 
viewed after  the  war. 

To  aid  in  the  breakout  from  the  Cotentin  the  air  forces  put  on  CO- 
BRA, a stupendous  carpet-bombing  attack.  Again  the  gains  scored, 
though  not  negligible,  hardly  justified  the  effort  expended  and  the  day 
was  saddened  by  heavy  casualties  among  friendly  troops  through  errors 
in  bombing.  Far  more  significant  in  the  long  run  was  the  development 
of  a most  intimate  type  of  air-ground  cooperation  in  the  airplane-tank 
team.  Involving  a generous  exchange  of  liaison  officers  between  the 
two  arms  and  efficient  VHF  communication  between  fighter-bombers 
and  tanks,  the  system  gave  to  armor  a new  mobility  which  was  in  large 
part  responsible  for  Patton’s  breakout  and  rapid  careen  across  France. 

Meanwhile  the  interdiction  program  continued,  but  with  a new  set 
of  targets  chosen  with  a view  toward  a more  open  type  of  warfare. 
While  Allied  armies  pushed  ahead  steadily,  bombers  continued  to  slug 
at  harbor  defenses,  rarely  with  unequivocal  success.  Heavily  built 
fortresses,  some  of  ancient  vintage,  absorbed  all  that  the  heavies  and 
fighter-bombers  could  throw  at  them  and  the  grim  tenacity  of  the 
garrisons  paid  off  abundantly  by  depriving  the  Allies  of  harbors  badly 
needed  to  nourish  the  battle  for  France.  The  success  of  the  German 
holding  action  here  (like  that  of  the  Japanese  in  some  of  their  cave- 
pitted  Pacific  islands)  was  in  flat  contradiction  to  much  stuff  that  has 
been  written  decrying  the  “Maginot  complex”;  heavy  fortifications 
may  win  no  war  but  ruggedly  defended  they  were  of  great  strategic 
value  against  the  most  formidable  air  and  artillery  weapons. 

By  mid-September  France  had  been  liberated,  most  of  Belgium  and 
Luxembourg,  and  part  of  Holland.  Momentary  hopes  for  a rapid  push 
into  the  Reich  began  to  fade  as  the  armies  ground  to  a halt  for  lack  of 
supplies.  The  stormy  weather  of  June  that  had  curtailed  the  use  of 
artificial  harbors,  the  failure  to  seize  or  to  seize  intact  the  regular  ports, 
damage  done  to  the  French  transportation  system,  and  the  very  rapid- 
ity of  the  advance  once  the  Allies  had  shaken  their  columns  out  of 


xix 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

Normandy— these  factors  played  hob  with  logistical  phasing  and  it 
was  necessary  to  pause  until  an  adequate  supply  system  could  be  built 
up.  Air  had  helped  defer  that  pause  by  hauling  fuel  and  other  supplies 
to  columns  racing  across  France.  Heavy  bombers  as  well  as  transports 
had  turned  to  this  emergency  trucking  business  for  which  small  provi- 
sion had  been  made.  More  might  have  been  done  had  there  been  pre- 
liminary planning  and  had  it  not  been  necessary  to  hold  troop  carrier 
units  on  stand-by  alert  against  expected  calls  for  airborne  operations; 
but  since  it  is  useful  to  know  the  limitations  as  well  as  the  potentialities 
of  air  power,  it  should  be  pointed  out  here  that  with  available  equip- 
ment ground  operations  on  the  scale  of  the  Battle  of  France  could  not 
have  been  supported  by  air  transport  alone. 

While  ground  and  air  forces  were  regrouping  at  the  threshold  of 
Germany,  the  long  debate  over  future  strategy  was  decided  against  the 
advocates  of  a single  drive  into  the  Reich  and  in  favor  of  the  two- 
pronged attack,  north  of  the  Ardennes  and  in  the  southeast,  but  with 
pressure  along  the  whole  front  and  with  the  heaviest  support  going  to 
Montgomery’s  1 1 Army  Group  at  the  extreme  left  of  the  Allied  lines. 
That  decision  had  been  determined  in  advance  by  terrain,  proximity  to 
England’s  airfields,  the  need  to  get  Antwerp  or  Rotterdam  as  a port 
of  entry,  and  the  desire  to  overrun  V-weapon  sites  within  range  of 
England.  As  an  opening  round  in  the  battle  to  break  into  the  north 
German  plain  the  Allies  began  Operation  MARKET-GARDEN  on 
17  September.  The  immediate  objective  was  the  territory  between 
Arnhem  and  the  Zuider  Zee,  possession  of  which  would  allow  the 
British  Second  Army  to  cross  the  Ijssel  and  flank  the  Siegfried  Line. 
The  airborne  phase  was  the  largest  yet  executed,  with  the  whole  of 
Brereton’s  First  Allied  Airborne  Army  being  dropped  or  landed  in  the 
Eindhoven-Amhem-Nijmegen  area  during  a period  of  three  days. 
Although  the  long-drawn-out  landing  operation  was  executed  by  day, 
losses  were  slight;  fighters  from  Eighth  Air  Force  and  ADGB  com- 
pletely throttled  the  Luftwaffe  and  heavy  attacks  on  AA  positions  by 
RAF  Bomber  Command  helped  keep  down  losses  from  flak.  Weather, 
originally  favorable,  delayed  air  landings  subsequent  to  D-day  and  the 
resupply  of  troops  and  although  the  airborne  units  seized  a number  of 
key  water  crossings— their  most  important  objectives— the  ground 
troops  were  slow  in  effecting  a junction  with  them.  German  defense 
proved  more  stubborn  than  had  been  expected  and  the  Allies  had  to 


xx 


FOREWORD 


withdraw  from  some  of  their  positions,  while  holding  a few  important 
bridgeheads. 

With  this  failure  to  get  across  the  Rhine  in  September  the  Allied 
armies  lost  all  chance  of  ending  the  war  before  the  Germans  could 
rally  from  the  disastrous  effects  of  the  summer  campaigns.  Though 
some  hope  of  an  early  victory  persisted,  it  required  several  weeks  to 
clear  the  water  approaches  to  Antwerp;  and  progress  on  other  fronts 
served  chiefly  to  bring  American  armies  into  position  for  an  all-out 
Allied  offensive  scheduled  for  December. 

That  month  saw  instead  Hitler’s  last  desperate  bid  in  the  Ardennes. 
The  Fuehrer’s  plan  and  his  aims,  as  fully  as  they  can  be  reconstructed, 
are  well  enough  known  to  most  readers  of  military  history.  Familiar 
too  is  the  general  attitude  of  overconfidence  among  the  Allies  that 
made  it  possible  for  von  Rundstedt  to  score  one  of  the  war’s  most 
important  surprises.  In  retrospect  it  is  difficult  to  understand  why  the 
Allies  were  so  completely  fooled.  There  was  available  much  incidental 
intelligence,  some  from  ground  reconnaissance,  more  from  air.  Bad 
weather  between  1 7 November  and  1 6 December  helped  cloak  the  ex- 
tensive preparations  of  the  Nazis  but  the  frequent  sorties  of  tac/recce 
groups  and  visual  sightings  by  fighter-bombers  on  armed  reconnais- 
sance brought  in  countless  bits  of  detailed  information  on  troop  move- 
ments, build-up  of  supplies,  and,  an  especially  grim  portent,  of  concen- 
trations of  ambulances  and  hospital  trains.  Air  passed  this  raw  material 
of  intelligence  along  and  its  interpretation  (save  in  the  case  of  infor- 
mation on  the  GAF)  was  the  ultimate  responsibility  of  G-2.  Air  in- 
telligence was  not  blameless,  however.  Here,  as  in  the  Kiska  fiasco  of 
August  1943/  the  AAF  was  at  fault  in  not  stressing  more  incisively 
the  significance  of  the  data  provided  by  its  planes  and  the  failure 
suggests  that  there  was  a shadowy  “twilight  zone”  between  air  and 
ground  headquarters  which  proved  disastrous.  Even  after  the  break- 
through it  was  difficult  to  pin  down  responsibilities.  Arnold,  ever  sen- 
sitive to  criticism  of  the  AAF,  attempted  to  get  a critique  from  Spaatz 
but  the  latter’s  reply  was  noncommittal,  perhaps  in  loyalty  to  Eisen- 
hower since  the  major  fault  could  not  be  blamed  on  USSTAF. 

During  the  initial  breakthrough  and  the  fluid  battle  which  fol- 
lowed, weather  was  a staunch  ally  of  the  Germans.  Only  the  stubborn 
resistance  of  ground  units  blunted  the  enemy’s  drive  and  held  him  to 

* See  Vol.  IV,  391-91. 


XXI 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

gains  which  though  substantial  were  less  than  anticipated;  the  time 
thus  gained  allowed  Eisenhower  to  rearrange  his  commands  and  to 
develop  a strategy  for  containing,  then  pushing  back,  the  German 
armies.  The  GAF,  momentarily  resurgent,  came  to  the  support  of  its 
own  troops  in  greater  strength  than  it  had  shown  in  months.  In  the 
Allied  counter-air  strikes  which  followed  the  versatile  fighter-bomber 
again  proved  its  worth  and  night  fighters  worked  overtime.  Here,  as 
was  so  often  true  in  the  Pacific,  the  AAF  showed  a quantitative  weak- 
ness in  the  latter  category,  perhaps  to  be  accounted  for  by  dominant 
offensive  doctrines  and  a preference  for  daylight  operations.  Within 
a few  days  the  GAF  had  shot  its  bolt  and  as  von  Rundstedt’s  armies 
approached  the  Meuse  the  weather  turned.  Five  wonderfully  clear 
days  (23-27  December)  followed  during  which  Allied  planes  of  every 
type  hammered  incessantly  at  enemy  airdromes  and  at  communica- 
tions at  the  front  and  the  rear.  Before  the  clouds  shut  in  again  this 
interdiction  program  had  already  hurt  the  mobility  of  the  German 
columns.  Air  had  also  rendered  close  support  over  difficult  terrain,  had 
flown  numerous  armed  recces,  and  had  dropped  supplies  to  the  be- 
leaguered forces  at  Bastogne.  By  the  end  of  the  year  the  Germans 
had  given  up  the  idea  of  reaching  the  Meuse;  the  surprise  attack  de- 
livered by  the  Luftwaffe  against  Allied  airdromes  on  New  Year’s  Day 
was  a futile  gesture  by  a defeated  air  force. 

During  January,  as  the  Allies  slowly  pinched  off  the  Ardennes 
salient,  weather  was  generally  bad  with  a dozen  days  in  which  not 
even  fighter-bombers  could  get  up.  On  flyable  days,  however,  Allied 
air  put  tremendous  forces  over  the  battle  and  the  eastern  approaches 
thereto  with  notable  effect.  With  the  enemy  in  full  retreat  planes 
took  over  a function  not  unlike  that  of  cavalry  in  earlier  wars,  harry- 
ing the  withdrawing  columns  by  hitting  bridges,  road  junctions,  road 
blocks,  and  fortified  positions,  and  beating  up  traffic  congestions.  Von 
Rundstedt’s  opinion  accorded  to  air  a highly  significant  share  in  his 
defeat. 

By  mid-January,  with  the  Bulge  no  longer  a menace,  SHAEF  was 
planning  its  own  offensive  with  Devers  and  Bradley  erasing  German 
holdings  west  of  the  Rhine  and  Montgomery  making  the  big  push 
across  the  north  German  plain.  Air  operations  in  each  sector  followed 
the  by  now  familiar  pattern  of  interdiction  and  close  support,  but  on  a 
scale  never  equaled  in  war  before.  Beginning  with  the  lucky  seizure 
of  the  bridge  at  Remagen  on  7 March,  the  Allies  crossed  the  Rhine 

xxii 


FOREWORD 


in  a number  of  places  with  aid  of  a huge  lift  of  the  First  Allied  Air- 
borne Army  near  Wesel  (VARSITY)  that  showed  great  improve- 
ment over  the  September  jump  at  Arnhem. 

Thereafter  the  drive  across  Germany  went  at  a fast  clip  which  at 
times  outran  the  short-ranged  tactical  planes  whose  bases  could  not  be 
moved  up  in  time  to  permit  fighter-bombers  to  spearhead  the  attack. 
The  Luftwaffe  too  suffered  for  want  of  bases  as  the  ground  armies 
swept  over  their  ruined  fields,  and  though  there  was  an  occasional 
flurry  of  activity  by  German  fighters  their  efforts  were  feeble  enough. 
As  the  armies  moved  into  assigned  positions  to  await  junction  with  the 
Russians  the  tactical  forces  turned  for  a while  against  munitions  fac- 
tories that  might  arm  a new  people’s  army  and  to  the  task  of  isolating 
the  so-called  National  Redoubt  in  Bavaria.  But  the  real  tactical  job 
had  been  done,  and  with  distinction,  when  the  armies  reached  the  Elbe. 

Four  scattered  chapters  in  the  volume  deal  with  miscellaneous  ac- 
tivities which  for  want  of  a better  designation  have  been  called  “sup- 
porting operations.”  One  deals  with  logistical  support  of  the  Ninth 
Air  Force  before  and  after  D-day.  Machinery  for  support  of  U.S. 
strategic  air  forces  had  been  in  operation  in  England  since  1942  and 
in  Italy  had  been  developed  for  the  Fifteenth  in  the  winter  of  1943-44. 
Because  those  air  forces  continued  to  fly  from  semipermanent  instal- 
lations their  stepped-up  operations  of  1944-45  required  little  more 
than  an  extension  and  improvement  of  existing  facilities.  For  the 
Ninth,  however,  a new  type  of  warfare  opened  with  the  OVER- 
LORD  invasion,  a war  of  movement  with  shifts  more  rapid,  if  of  less 
distance,  than  those  in  the  Pacific;  if  terrain  and  transportation  were 
more  favorable  for  the  constant  shift  from  airfield  to  airfield  than  in 
the  Pacific,  the  formidable  size  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force  created  special 
problems.  It  has  become  the  fashion  of  late  years  for  the  civilian  his- 
torian to  pay  tribute  to  the  importance  of  logistics,  perhaps  at  times, 
in  healthy  reaction  against  the  blood-and-trumpet  writers  of  an  earlier 
day,  to  the  neglect  of  the  combat  operations  for  which  supply  systems 
are  created.  The  editors,  not  wholly  unpartisan  readers,  have  felt  that 
this  chapter  has  achieved  a nice  balance  with  the  combat  narrative  in 
describing  the  move  to  the  continent  and  the  successive  advances  from 
OMAHA  and  UTAH  beaches  to  the  borders  of  the  Reich  and  on  to 
the  Elbe.  The  story  includes  the  work  of  the  aviation  engineers  who 
built  the  airfields  and  other  installations,  and  the  arrangements  for  sup- 
ply and  maintenance  of  the  huge  tactical  forces.  These  activities,  if 


XXlll 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORGES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

less  than  perfect  in  every  detail,  showed  boldness  in  design,  skill  in 
execution,  and  something  of  the  American  genius  for  large-scale  or- 
ganization. 

On  a smaller  scale  and  along  lines  less  familiar  to  the  AAF  were 
operations  in  support  of  underground  resistance  forces  on  the  conti- 
nent. These  activities  were  shrouded  in  an  aura  of  mystery  which 
heightens  their  drama  but  which  tended  to  minimize  during  the  war 
recognition  due  those  crews  who  flew  the  difficult  and  hazardous  mis- 
sions. In  these  operations  the  AAF  acted  only  as  a common  carrier, 
delivering  parcels  and  passengers  at  the  behest  of  Special  Force  Head- 
quarters, a coordinating  agency  of  which  the  U.S.  members  were 
drawn  from  OSS. 

The  earliest  task  of  this  sort  (and  a continuing  one)  was  the  drop- 
ping of  propaganda  leaflets.  Originally  performed  by  tactical  units  as 
an  additional  duty,  the  job  of  “nickeling”  was  taken  over  by  special 
squadrons  on  a separate  basis,  with  equipment  and  tactics  peculiarly 
adapted  to  their  mission  and  with  an  argot  of  their  own  that  enriched 
the  English  language  with  a number  of  apt  expressions.  Even  after  the 
establishment  of  these  squadrons  tactical  units  were  levied  upon  for 
large  operations,  as  in  the  case  of  the  3d  Bombardment  Division  which 
spent  much  of  the  summer  of  1944  in  special  operations.  These  in- 
cluded dropping  or  landing  supplies  for  resistance  forces,  infiltrating 
agents,  and  evacuating  agents,  Partisans,  casualties,  American  airmen, 
and  occasionally  noncombatants. 

As  France  was  liberated  the  foci  of  “carpetbagger”  activities  in 
western  Europe  shifted  north,  to  the  Low  Countries,  Denmark,  Nor- 
way, Poland,  and  even  Germany.  In  Italy  the  Partisans  were  less  well 
organized  than  in  France  and  operations  in  the  peninsula  were  not  on  a 
large  scale  until  autumn  of  1944,  though  a fantastic  murder  case  re- 
cently made  public  has  indicated  something  of  the  importance  of  the 
supplies  dropped  in  the  battle  for  northern  Italy.  In  the  Balkans  oper- 
ations were  fairly  heavy  and  relatively  very  significant  in  encouraging 
resistance  movements  in  Greece,  Albania,  and  Yugoslavia.  Aid  to 
Tito’s  forces  was  particularly  important;  it  included  as  well  as  the 
usual  operations  three  mass  evacuations.  That  of  June  1944,  done  at 
Tito’s  request,  rescued  him  and  his  staff  from  an  almost  certain  threat 
of  capture  by  the  Germans.  The  story,  in  light  of  present  conditions, 
is  not  without  its  sardonic  humor:  the  Americans  did  most  of  the 
heavy  work  while  the  Russians  carried  Tito  and  his  top  brass.  But 
that  was  1944,  not  1951. 


xxiv 


FOREWORD 


Nazi  boasts  of  a secret  weapon  were  common  enough  to  become  a 
standard  joke  among  the  Allies.  During  1944  the  Germans  did  pro- 
duce such  weapons,  which  with  better  luck  might  have  saved  them 
from  defeat.  Allied  airmen  were  justified  in  their  apprehensions  about 
jet  fighters,  which  but  for  Hitler’s  bad  judgment  might  well  have  won 
for  the  Germans  control  of  the  skies  over  Europe.  In  another  case  the 
Fuehrer’s  intuition  helped  the  cause  of  the  Allies,  when  he  delayed  de- 
velopment of  the  guided  missiles  known  usually  as  the  V-i  and  V-2. 
The  former  was  a pilotless  jet  aircraft  with  an  explosive  warhead, 
cheap  to  produce  and  within  its  limits  an  efficient  and  effective 
weapon.  The  latter,  a supersonic  rocket  of  frightening  potentialities, 
was  more  difficult  to  perfect,  and  the  Germans  lost  valuable  time 
through  rivalries  within  the  Nazi  hierarchy. 

British  intelligence  became  acquainted,  though  imperfectly,  with 
the  V-weapon  threat  in  the  spring  of  1943  and  by  autumn  was  thor- 
oughly alarmed;  because  of  a lack  of  complete  exchange  of  informa- 
tion with  the  Americans— a most  unusual  and  regrettable  exception  to 
the  usual  rule— the  Allies  were  slow  in  developing  a policy  for  de- 
fensive measures.  The  only  immediate  countermeasure  seemed  to  con- 
sist of  bombardment  of  V-weapon  installations,  particularly  those 
diagnosed  as  launching  sites.  Various  tactics  were  attempted  with 
bombers  of  every  type,  but  with  results  which  did  not  seem  decisive. 
American  airmen  objected  to  the  diversion  of  heavy  bombers  from 
the  strategic  campaign  for  CROSSBOW  strikes  with  as  much  fervor 
and  as  little  success  as  they  had  in  the  case  of  the  diversion  to  U-boat 
pens  in  1942-43.  In  extensive  experiments  at  Eglin  Field  the  AAF  per- 
fected a technique  of  low-altitude  attacks  by  fighter-bombers  which 
seemed  more  economical  and  more  effective  than  that  involving  use  of 
B-iy’s  and  B-24’s  but  this  innovation  was  resisted  by  the  British,  par- 
ticularly by  Leigh-Mallory,  and  was  never  given  a fair  trial.  And  so 
the  heavies  and  mediums  bore  the  brunt  of  the  bombing  of  V-weapon 
sites;  by  sheer  weight  these  attacks  delayed  the  German  program  by 
some  several  months,  enough  probably  to  explain  the  postponement 
of  the  V-weapon  attack  until  after  the  OVERLORD  invasion. 

By  D-day  many  responsible  leaders  had  come  to  the  conclusion  that 
the  whole  threat  was  a hoax  but  on  the  night  of  12/13  June  the  first 
V-i  hit  in  England  and  the  rate  of  attack  was  soon  adjudged  danger- 
ous. Even  then  the  Anglo-American  organization  for  defense  was  too 
loose  for  efficient  action.  Under  general  control  of  the  Air  Ministry, 
this  staff  held  resolutely  to  an  emphasis  on  bombing  launching  sites— 


xxv 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

as  opposed  to  bombing  component  factories,  assembly  lines,  supply 
dumps,  and  transportation  lines.  CROSSBOW  missions  continued  to 
infringe  upon  other  operations,  rarely  upon  tactical  but  frequently 
upon  strategic.  By  the  end  of  August  the  V-i  threat  had  abated  but 
it  was  the  capture  of  launching  sites  by  ground  forces  rather  than 
bombing  which  put  an  end  to  the  peril. 

The  final  phase  was  that  of  the  V-2,  which  in  the  early  autumn  was 
launched  against  targets  in  England  and  on  the  continent,  especially 
the  strategic  port  of  Antwerp.  In  defense  of  Great  Britain  against  this 
danger  the  AAF  took  little  part  and  again  it  was  the  advance  of  the 
armies  which  wiped  out  the  V-weapon  menace.  Air  power  had  failed 
to  eradicate  these  unconventional  air  weapons  but  here  again  it  was 
the  airmen  who  first  understood  the  limitations  of  their  arm;  and  Spaatz 
may  have  been  right  in  believing  that  given  a free  hand  the  AAF  could 
have  made  a better  showing. 

In  the  final  chapter,  “Mission  Accomplished,”  an  attempt  is  made 
to  evaluate  the  contributions  of  the  Army  Air  Forces  toward  the  vic- 
tory in  Europe.  This  was  not  an  easy  chapter  to  write.  Records  of  our 
own  air  forces  and  of  the  GAF  provide  ample  data  for  the  operational 
story  and,  thanks  to  the  indefatigable  efforts  of  the  United  States  Stra- 
tegic Bombing  Survey,  there  is  a wealth  of  materials  on  the  German 
industry  under  bombardment.  The  mute  evidence  of  physical  destruc- 
tion is  impersonal  enough  but  much  of  the  written  record  and  all  of 
the  recorded  interviews  are  colored  by  a personal  or  organizational 
bias.  For  a series  of  events  as  complex  as  was  the  war  against  Germany 
the  historian,  no  matter  how  well  informed  and  how  dispassionate, 
will  find  it  difficult  to  establish  universally  acceptable  causal  explana- 
tions and  it  is  hardly  likely  that  the  interpretation  contained  herein 
will  satisfy  every  reader.  To  the  editors,  at  any  rate,  the  judgments 
offered  seem  fair  and  sober,  calling  attention  as  they  do  to  the  mis- 
takes of  the  AAF  as  well  as  to  its  very  substantial  accomplishments. 
Overenthusiastic  claims  advanced  during  the  war  are  corrected  but 
the  author  points  out  too  the  errors  of  those  who,  by  citing  out  of 
context  isolated  statements  from  the  USSBS,  have  used  those  authori- 
tative critiques  to  belittle  the  cause  of  air  power.  Briefly,  the  thesis 
put  forth  in  this  volume  is  that  air  power  did  not  win  the  war  but  that 
the  Allies  could  not  have  gained  the  victory  at  all  without  the  air 
ascendancy  gained  by  the  AAF  and  RAF  and  that  the  final  victory 
was  won  more  rapidly  and  at  less  cost  because  Anglo-American  air 


xxvi 


FOREWORD 


power  was  superior  to  the  German  in  production,  in  strategy,  in  com- 
bat, and  in  related  services.  In  the  face  of  that  general  superiority  indi- 
vidual errors  in  concept  and  failures  in  execution  lose  their  importance 
save  as  they  inform  those  who  plan  for  other  wars. 

Practical  considerations  of  publication  made  it  convenient  to  bring 
out  Volume  IV  of  this  series  in  advance  of  Volume  III.  This  inversion 
of  order  has  subjected  the  editors  to  some  mild  chaffing  about  absent- 
minded  professors  but  since  the  fourth  volume  brought  the  story  of 
the  AAF’s  war  against  Japan  down  to  July  1944  it  makes  possible 
some  useful  if  preliminary  comparisons  between  that  struggle  and  the 
air  war  in  Europe.  From  1941  most  top  strategists  in  Washington  be- 
lieved that  Germany  was  the  most  dangerous  enemy  and  Europe  the 
most  important  theater  and  that  hence  the  preponderant  effort  should 
be  made  in  that  area  until  Hitler  was  defeated.  This  thesis  was  sharply 
challenged  by  commanders  in  the  Pacific  and  by  some  in  Washington 
but  was  upheld,  save  as  naval  forces  were  concerned,  until  V-E  Day. 
The  long  debate  during  World  War  II  is  given  fresh  interest  by  cur- 
rent discussions  of  national  policy  in  which,  under  different  circum- 
stances, a similar  problem  has  emerged:  how  best  to  divide  our  not 
unlimited  resources  to  confront  aggression  in  Europe  and  in  the  Far 
East.  Perhaps  the  differences  outweigh  the  similarities  in  the  situation 
as  of  1941  and  1951  but  no  thinking  American  can  afford  to  neglect 
such  evidence  as  recent  history  affords. 

Throughout  World  War  II,  AAF  Headquarters  strategists  were 
staunchly  in  favor  of  the  beat-Hitler-first  thesis.  Their  appraisal  of 
potential  enemies  and  their  strategy  for  the  air  war  were  incorporated 
in  AWPD/i,  a plan  drawn  up  in  September  1941.  This  remarkable 
document,  classified  as  secret  but  published  in  a competent  abstract 
by  the  Washington  Times-Herald,  the  Chicago  Tribune,  and  other 
papers  on  4 December  1941,  can  be  found  in  the  Congressional 
Record,  Vol.  87,  Pt.  14,  A5448-5 1.  Read  in  connection  with  the 
present  volume  and  especially  with  the  appraisal  contained  in  Chap- 
ter 22,  AWPD/i  takes  on  a new  significance.  The  strength  and  re- 
sourcefulness of  Germany’s  armed  forces,  the  skill  of  her  scientists 
and  technicians,  and  the  resilience  of  her  industry  and  transportation 
system— all  these  appear  graphically  in  the  story  of  the  air  war  and 
to  the  editors  seem  to  justify  the  most  important  decision  of  the  war. 

One  matter  of  appraisal  has  involved  much  labor  for  the  authors 
and  some  embarrassment  for  the  editors— that  is,  the  question  of  just 

xxvii 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


how  heavy  were  the  losses  inflicted  upon  German  fighters  by  U.S. 
planes,  particularly  heavy  bombers.  A more  significant  question  is 
whether  the  GAF’s  offensive  and  defensive  power  was  broken  by 
Allied  air  forces  and  here  an  affirmative  answer  can  be  documented 
from  the  early  spring  of  1944  on.  The  defeat  of  the  Luftwaffe  was 
the  work  of  the  AAF  and  RAF  and  in  terms  of  final  results  it  matters 
little  whether,  to  paraphrase  a favorite  saying  of  Arnold’s,  the  German 
planes  were  destroyed  in  the  factories,  on  the  ground,  or  in  the  skies. 
But  current  assessment  of  enemy  losses  was  a most  important  factor 
in  operational  planning  during  the  war  and  for  the  historian  the  effort 
to  evaluate  those  assessments  constitutes  a most  interesting  problem  in 
source  criticism. 

The  Eighth  Air  Force  realized  quite  early  that  the  claims  by  bomber 
crewmen  of  German  fighters  destroyed  were  too  high.  Efforts  were 
made  to  tighten  up  on  methods  of  reporting  and  evaluating  claims  and 
early  records  were  repeatedly  scaled  down— for  whatever  may  have 
been  their  attitude  in  regard  to  headlines  for  the  public,  operational 
officers  in  the  desperate  struggle  wanted  facts,  not  bloated  claims.  In 
spite  of,  or  perhaps  because  of,  these  corrections  authors  in  this  series 
have  treated  official  scores  with  reservation  unless  substantiated  by 
other  evidence. 

When  Volume  II  was  going  to  press  a new  file  of  German  records 
turned  up  which  seemed  to  show  AAF  claims  preposterously  exag- 
gerated, and  with  consent  of  the  authors  involved  the  editors  called 
attention  to  this  evidence  and  to  results  obtained  when  it  was  applied 
in  a few  test  cases  chosen  at  random.  Unfortunately  some  reviewers 
emphasized  this  feature  of  the  volume  without  noticing  the  tentative 
nature  of  conclusions  based  on  new  but  fragmentary  evidence.  The 
editors  were  pleased  that  press  notices  critical  of  the  AAF,  though 
they  came  during  the  B-36  controversy  when  unfavorable  publicity 
might  have  been  mischievous,  brought  no  recrimination  from  the  U.S. 
Air  Forces.  Subsequent  research  in  other  enemy  records  in  England 
and  in  Germany  has  modified  sharply  the  impression  created  by  a 
hasty  use  of  the  one  file  available  in  1949.  No  firm  answer  can  be 
given  to  the  question  of  fighter  losses  on  the  basis  of  German  files 
so  far  discovered— and  in  passing  it  is  interesting  to  note  that  the  offi- 
cial records  of  the  “methodical”  Germans  are  in  respect  to  air  force 
matters  much  less  precise  than  our  own  and  in  some  cases  are  quite 
obviously  padded.  But  the  historian  who  has  done  more  research  on 

xxviii 


FOREWORD 


the  problem  than  any  other  has  calculated  that  the  AAF  shot  down 
perhaps  half  as  many  GAF  fighters  as  were  claimed,  a not  unreason- 
able margin  of  error  if  one  considers  the  conditions  under  which  the 
original  observations  were  made.  And  so,  with  new  evidence  available 
the  editors  have  again  accepted  a new  interpretation  and,  they  hope, 
a more  lasting  one. 

The  tasks  in  Volume  III  have  been  spread  more  widely  than  in 
Volumes  II  and  IV.  Ten  authors,  whose  current  professional  connec- 
tions are  indicated  in  the  Table  of  Contents,  have  contributed  to  this 
volume;  of  these,  three,  Arthur  B.  Ferguson,  Alfred  Goldberg,  and 
Albert  F.  Simpson,  are  already  known  to  readers  of  the  series  and 
it  is  necessary  only  to  introduce  the  newcomers.  Joseph  W.  Angell 
served  during  the  war  as  historical  officer  of  the  AAF  Proving  Ground 
Command  and  after  the  end  of  hostilities  undertook  at  AAF  Head- 
quarters a special  study  of  V-weapon  operations.  John  E.  Fagg,  after 
service  with  the  Far  East  Air  Forces,  turned  his  attention  to  strategic 
operations  in  Europe  as  a member  of  the  staff  of  the  AAF  Historical 
Division.  Robert  T.  Finney  joined  that  staff  after  a lengthy  tour  of 
duty  with  the  AAF  in  MTO.  Robert  H.  George  became  historical 
officer  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force  shortly  after  its  establishment  in  ETO 
in  the  fall  of  1943.  During  the  war  Martin  R.  R.  Goldman  served  on 
combat  duty  with  a B-24  unit  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force.  David  G. 
Rempel  represented  the  AAF  Historical  Division  at  Air  Staff,  SHAEF. 
After  service  with  the  ground  forces  in  MTO,  Harris  Warren  was 
assigned  to  study  special  air  operations  in  the  AAF  Historical  Division. 

Col.  Wilfred  J.  Paul,  Director  of  the  U.S.  Air  Force  Historical  Di- 
vision, and  Dr.  Albert  F.  Simpson,  Air  Force  Historian,  again  have 
given  editors  and  authors  alike  every  assistance  at  their  command.  It 
is  no  mere  formality  to  say  that  without  the  intelligent  understanding 
with  which  this  assistance  has  been  rendered  the  completion  of  the 
volume  would  have  been  impossible.  Of  Colonel  Paul’s  capable  staff 
Mrs.  Wilhelmine  Burch,  Sgt.  James  B.  Donnelly,  and  Messrs.  Ernest  S. 
Gohn  and  Robert  F.  Gleckner  are  due  special  acknowledgment  for 
the  many  blunders  they  have  saved  the  editors  through  their  careful 
review  of  both  manuscript  and  proof.  For  whatever  they  may  have 
overlooked  the  editors  are  happy  to  take  full  responsibility.  The  gen- 
erous spirit  which  has  characterized  other  members  of  the  Historical 
Division  has  laid  the  editors  under  an  obligation  for  so  many  and  such 


xxix 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

varied  services  that  it  is  possible  only  to  list  those  to  whom  the  indebt- 
edness is  heaviest:  Col.  Garth  C.  Cobb,  Col.  Byron  K.  Enyart,  Lt.  Col. 
Arthur  J.  Larsen,  Lt.  Col.  Eldon  W.  Downs,  Lt.  Col.  Ernest  B.  Steven- 
son, Maj.  Thad  S.  Strange,  Capt.  George  H.  Satterfield,  Capt.  George 
H.  Saylor,  S/Sgt.  John  A.  Hennessey,  S/Sgt.  Marjorie  Z.  Nicodemus, 
T/Sgt.  John  C.  Rayburn,  Jr.,  Sgt.  Jerry  L.  Hawes,  Sgt.  Malcolm  J. 
Gentgen,  Mrs.  Juliette  A.  Hennessey,  Miss  Marguerite  K.  Kennedy, 
Dr.  Edith  C.  Rodgers,  Mr.  Frank  Myers,  Mrs.  Lucille  Sexton,  Mrs. 
Lola  Lowe,  Miss  Sara  Venable,  Miss  Ruth  McKinnon,  and  Mr.  David 
Schoein. 

Once  more  Mr.  John  C.  Nerney  of  the  Air  Historical  Branch  of  the 
British  Air  Ministry  has  responded  to  appeals  for  help  in  a spirit  which 
faithfully  reflects  the  close  partnership  in  which  the  RAF  and  the 
AAF  fought  the  war.  With  equal  generosity  and  helpfulness  Mr.  L.  A. 
Jackets  and  other  members  of  the  same  organization  have  lent  to  us 
their  special  knowledge  of  pertinent  records. 

No  less  friendly  has  been  the  response  to  requests  for  aid  by  numer- 
ous AAF  officers  who  during  the  war  bore  a heavy  responsibility  for 
the  operations  here  recorded.  Their  names  appear  repeatedly  in  the 
footnotes,  and  it  is  hoped  that  these  citations  may  serve  as  sufficient 
acknowledgment  by  authors  and  editors  of  a heavy  debt.  If  any  one  of 
them  should  be  singled  out  for  special  mention,  it  is  Lt.  Gen.  Ira  C. 
Eaker,  now  retired,  whose  consistent  support  of  historical  officers 
under  his  command  was  supplemented  by  a decision  at  the  close  of 
the  war  to  turn  over  to  the  Historical  Division  his  own  personal  files. 
The  editors  like  to  think,  not  without  reason,  that  his  action  represents 
the  willingness  of  air  officers  to  stand  on  the  record. 

Wesley  Frank  Craven 
James  Lea  Cate 

Chicago,  Illinois 
t2  October  1951 


XXX 


CONTENTS 


*********** 


I.  FROM  POINTBLANK  TO  OVERLORD 

Arthur  B.  Ferguson,  Duke  University 
John  E.  Fagg,  New  York  University 
Joseph  W.  Angell,  Pomona  College 
Alfred  Goi.dberg,  USAF  Historical  Division 

1.  Winter  Bombing 

Arthur  B.  Ferguson 

2.  Big  Week 

Arthur  B.  Ferguson 

3.  Plan  for  OVERLORD 

John  E.  Fagg 

4.  CROSSBOW 

Joseph  W.  Angell 

5.  The  Ninth  Air  Force 

Alfred  Goldberg 

6.  Pre-Invasion  Operations 

John  E.  Fagc 

II.  INVASION  OF  WESTERN  EUROPE 

Robert  H.  George,  Brown  University 
John  E.  Fagg,  New  York  University 

7.  Normandy  185 

Robert  H.  George 

8.  The  Battle  of  France 228 

Robert  H.  George 

xxxi 


3 

3° 

67 

84 

107 

138 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


9.  The  Strategic  Bomber  Strikes  Ahead 278 

John  E.  Fagg 

III.  ITALY 

Albert  F.  Simpson,  USAF  Historical  Division 
Robert  T.  Finney,  USAF  Historical  Division 


10.  Anzio 325 

Albert  F.  Simpson 

1 1.  Rome 371 

Albert  F.  Simpson 

1 2.  Invasion  of  Southern  France 408 

Albert  F.  Simpson 

13.  Battle  of  Northern  Italy  439 

Robert  T.  Finney 
Albert  F.  Simpson 


IV.  SUPPORTING  OPERATIONS 

Harris  Warren,  University  of  Mississippi 
Joseph  W.  Angell,  Pomona  College 
Alfred  Goldberg,  USAF  Historical  Division 


14.  Air  Support  for  the  Underground 493 

Harris  Warren 

15.  CROSSBOW— Second  Phase 525 

Joseph  W.  Angell 

16.  Logistical  Mobility 547 

Alfred  Goldberg 


V.  THE  GERMAN  FRONTIER 

David  G.  Rempel,  San  Mateo  Junior  College 
John  E.  Fagg,  New  York  University 

xxxii 


CONTENTS 

17.  Check  at  the  Rhine  595 

David  G.  Rempel 

18.  Autumn  Assault  on  Germany  - 636 

John  E.  Fagg 

19.  Battle  of  the  Bulge  672 

David  G.  Rempel 

VI.  GERMANY 

John  E.  Fagg,  New  York  University 
David  G.  Rempel,  San  Mateo  Junior  College 
Martin  R.  R.  Goldman,  USAF  Historical  Division 

20.  The  Climax  of  Strategic  Operations  715 

John  E.  Fagg 

21.  From  the  Rhine  to  the  Elbe  . 756 

David  G.  Rempel 
Martin  R.  R.  Goldman 

22.  Mission  Accomplished 783 

John  E.  Fagg 

Notes 81 1 

Glossary 913 

Index  917 


xxxiii 


LIST  OF  MAPS  AND  CHARTS 


*********** 


Main  Objectives  of  “Big  Week”  Operations  34 

The  CROSSBOW  Network,  January  1944  94 

Organization  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force,  6 June  1944  m 

Tactical  Disposition  Ninth  Air  Force,  6 June  1944  120 

Airborne  Operation  NEPTUNE,  5-6  June  1944  187 

D-Day  Air  Dispositions  and  Principal  Targets  Assigned  in 
the  Assault  Area 1 9 1 

The  Battle  Area,  June-September  1944  229 

Interdiction,  May-August  1944  259 

Principal  Oil  Targets  Bombed  by  the  Strategic  Air  Forces  282 
Twelfth  Air  Force,  29  January  1944  . 334 

Allied  Strategy  in  Italy,  January  1944 338 

The  Anzio  Landing  and  the  Initial  Expansion  of  the  Beach- 
head   347 

Central  Italy  Principal  Rail  Lines  and  Roads  375 

Fifteenth  Air  Force,  15  June  1944 398 

Principal  Rail  Lines,  Southern  France  422 

Twelfth  Air  Force,  31  August  1944  444 

Principal  Rail  Lines,  Northern  Italy  457 

MAAF,  i November  1944 465 

Balkan  Area  Served  by  AAF  Special  Operations  508 

Status  of  U.S.  Airfields  in  Western  Europe,  8 May  1945  564 

Headquarters  IX  Air  Force  Service  Command  576 


xxxv 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


Navigation  Diagram  for  Operation  MARKET  . 603 

Operations  in  Holland,  17  September- 3 December  1944  605 

Operation  MADISON 625 

Sixth  Army  Group  Operations,  5 November- 16  December 

1944  63° 

Railways  in  Germany  Bombed  by  Allied  Air  Forces  651 

German  Preparation  for  the  Ardennes  Counteroffensive  . 674 

Battle  of  the  Bulge 684 

Interdiction  Operations,  23  December  1944  to  31  January 

>945  69> 


XXXVI 


LIST  OF  ILLUSTRATIONS 

*********** 


FACING 


Over  Berlin:  Radar  Bombing  through  7/10  Cloud  40 

Little  Brothers:  P-38,  P-5 1,  P-47  40 

Big  Week:  Regen  sburg-Prufening  40 

Big  Week:  Regensburg-Obertraubling  40 

V-i 104 

Launching  V-2 104 

V-Weapon  Site  in  Normandy  104 

Before  D-Day:  Low-Level  Reconnaissance  of  Beach  De- 
fenses   104 

Normandy  Beachhead  under  P-38  Cover  104 

Isolating  the  Battlefield 200 


Normandy  Rail  Cuts 
Loire  Bridge  at  Saumur 

Ninth  Air  Force  Communications  200 

Headquarters  Installations 
Tank  to  Fighter-Bomber 

Strafing  Motor  Transport  in  France  200 

Von  Rundstedt’s  Headquarters  after  a Visit  by  XIX  TAG  200 

xxxvii 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


FACING 

Camera  Guns  Record  Victories  232 

Attack  on  Me- 109 
Strafing  FW-190 

Direct  Hit  on  Ammunition  Truck  232 

Berlin  Flak  Destroys  B-17  232 

B-17  Belly  Wound  Not  Fatal 232 

Fifteenth  Air  Force  W recks  Ploesti  Refineries  296 


Stella  Romana 
Concordia  Vega 


Eighth  Air  Force  Attacks  Oil  Refineries  296 

Merseburg-Leuna 
Harburg 

FRANTIC:  B- 1 7’s  En  Route  to  Russia  296 

Fifteenth  Air  Force  Ruins  Airdrome  at  Neuburg,  Austria  296 

Monte  Cassino:  The  Abbey  in  Ruins 328 

Cassino:  The  Town  under  Attack 328 

All  Roads  Lead  to  Rome 328 

Briefing  Pilots  of  3 3 2D  Fighter  Group  in  Italy  328 

Air  Drop  for  DRAGOON  424 

Run-in 
Bail-out 

Broken  Bridges  in  Italy  424 

Bressanone 
Piazzola 
Ponte  di  Piave 
Nervesa 

xxxviii 


LIST  OF  ILLUSTRATIONS 

FACING 

Maquis  Receiving  Supplies  in  CARPETBAGGER  Mission  424 

Direct  Hit  on  Highway  Bridge  in  Italy  456 

Cathedral  and  Bridge:  Rouen  456 

Cathedral  and  Bridge:  Cologne  456 

B-25  Hits  Bridge  at  Brixlegg  456 

Hauling  Gas  for  Patton’s  Tanks 584 

Emergency  Airstrip  in  the  Normandy  Hedgerows  584 

Airfield  Construction 584 

Square-Mesh  Track 
Pierced-Steel  Plank 


Airfield  Construction:  Hessian  Mat 584 

Battle  of  the  Bulge:  Ninth  Air  Force  Hits  St.-Vith  680 

Battle  of  the  Bulge:  Bombed-out  Panzer  680 

Marshalling  Yards  680 

Linz 
Dasburg 
Salzburg 


Nazis  Watch  as  Eighth  Air  Force  Bombs  Factory  at  Kassel  680 


VARSITY  Line-up,  24  March  1945  744 

Eighth  Air  Force  Bombs  Dresden  744 

Berlin  Factories  Hit  by  Eighth  Air  Force  744 

Death  of  the  Luftwaffe 744 


Strafing  Attack  by  353d  Fighter  Group,  16  April  1945 
Bad  Abling  Airdrome,  May  1945 


xxxix 


United  States  Air  Force 
Historical  Advisory  Committee 

(As  of  May  1,  1983) 


Lt.  Gen.  Charles  G.  Cleveland, 
USAF 

Commander,  Air  University,  ATC 

Mr.  DeWitt  S.  Copp 

The  National  Volunteer  Agency 

Dr.  Warren  W.  Hassler,  Jr. 
Pennsylvania  State  University 

Dr.  Edward  L.  Homze 
University  of  Nebraska 

Dr.  Alfred  F.  Hurley 
Brig.  Gen.,  USAF,  Retired 
North  Texas  State  University 


Maj.  Gen.  Robert  E.  Kelley,  USAF 
Superintendent,  USAF  Academy 

Dr.  Joan  Kennedy  Kinnaird 
Trinity  College 

Mr.  David  E.  Place, 

The  General  Counsel,  USAF 

Gen.  Bryce  Poe  II, 

USAF,  Retired 

Dr.  David  A.  Shannon  ( Chairman ) 
University  of  Virginia 


xl 


FROM  POINTBLANK  TO  OVERLORD 


CHAPTER  1 


WINTER  BOMBING 

BY  THE  opening  weeks  of  1 944  all  phases  of  the  American  war 
effort  had  come  to  be  dominated  by  plans  for  an  invasion  of 
' northwestern  Europe.  Since  the  beginning  of  hostilities  the  War 
Department  had  held  steadfastly  to  the  belief  that  such  an  invasion 
would  prove  decisive  in  the  defeat  of  Germany,  but  this  strategic  con- 
cept did  not  govern  to  an  equal  degree  the  minds  of  Prime  Minister 
Churchill,  President  Roosevelt,  and  influential  U.S.  Navy  and  British 
officers.  Consequently,  a firm  decision  to  mount  the  cross-Channel 
operation  had  not  been  reached  until  the  latter  half  of  1943. 

The  Combined  Chiefs  of  Staff  at  Casablanca,  in  January  1943,  had 
elected  to  follow  up  an  anticipated  victory  in  North  Africa  with  the 
invasion  of  Sicily,  and  they  further  indicated  their  inclination  to  post- 
pone a direct  assault  on  western  Europe  by  scheduling  a preliminary 
bombing  offensive  against  Germany  that  would  not  reach  its  climax 
until  early  in  the  following  year.*  In  consonance  with  the  assumptions 
which  gave  shape  to  the  Casablanca  decisions,  the  CCS  in  April  1943 
assigned  to  Lt.  Gen.  Sir  Frederick  E.  Morgan,  as  chief  of  staff  to  the 
supreme  Allied  commander  (COSSAC),  the  task  of  preparing  an  out- 
line plan  for  a trans-Channel  operation  to  be  staged  early  in  1944.+  The 
British  and  American  chiefs  committed  themselves  to  that  date  at  their 
Washington  conference  in  May  1943,  and  three  months  later  at  Que- 
bec they  approved  Morgan’s  plan  for  OVERLORD,  as  the  operation 
had  been  coded,  on  the  understanding  that  it  would  be  launched  during 
the  spring  of  1944.1  Even  so,  the  U.S.  chiefs  experienced  some  uneasi- 
ness regarding  Britain’s  attitude  toward  OVERLORD  in  the  interval 

* See  Vol.  II,  300-306. 
t Ibid.,  632-34. 


3 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

between  the  Quebec  meeting  and  the  reassembling  of  the  Combined 
Chiefs  at  Cairo  in  November  1943.2 

At  that  time  the  Prime  Minister  undertook  to  remove  any  fear  that 
the  British  “had  weakened,  cooled,  or  were  trying  to  get  out  of 
OVERLORD,”  but  he  insisted  that  the  operation  should  not  become 
a tyrant  dictating  all  strategy  nor  a pivot  so  firm  that  every  opportunity 
in  the  Mediterranean  would  have  to  be  ruled  out.3  The  British  chiefs  of 
staff,  while  showing  some  reluctance  to  fix  a specific  date  for  the  in- 
vasion, were  inclined  to  favor  projects  in  the  eastern  Mediterranean 
which  might  impose  a delay  in  western  Europe.4  Thus  plans  for 
OVERLORD  still  lacked  the  firmness  the  Americans  would  have  pre- 
ferred as  the  conferees  moved  to  Iran  for  consultation  with  Marshal 
Stalin  and  the  Russian  staff.  At  Tehran  the  Russians  pressed  vigorously 
for  a final  commitment  to  OVERLORD  and  suggested  that  Mediter- 
ranean forces  be  thrown  into  direct  support  of  that  operation  by  inva- 
sion of  southern  France.6  This  last  suggestion  was  already  under  con- 
sideration by  Allied  planners,*  and  in  the  end  it  was  agreed  that  Anglo- 
American  forces  would  invade  France  from  two  sides  (in  addition  to 
OVERLORD  there  would  be  an  invasion  of  southern  France,  coded 
ANVIL)  and  that  the  Russians  would  simultaneously  undertake  a 
large-scale  offensive  on  the  eastern  front.6  OVERLORD,  with  a tar- 
get date  for  May  1944,  had  become  a firm  commitment. 

At  Cairo,  following  the  Tehran  conference,  the  identity  of  the  su- 
preme commander  for  OVERLORD  also  had  been  determined.  For 
months  the  question  had  been  a subject  of  speculation,  with  inner  mili- 
tary circles  and  the  public  alike  expecting  Gen.  George  C.  Marshall  to 
receive  the  post.  In  fact,  Churchill  had  come  forward  at  Quebec  with 
an  offer  to  accept  Marshall  as  soon  as  it  became  clear  that  President 
Roosevelt  would  insist  upon  naming  an  American.7  There  was  no 
haste  to  make  the  appointment,  however,  for  the  status  of  the  supreme 
command  itself  was  in  doubt  for  some  months  and  General  Marshall’s 
colleagues  were  reluctant  to  see  him  leave  Washington.  At  Tehran, 
Marshal  Stalin  demanded  that  the  invasion  leader  be  named  within  a 
week  at  most,8  and  after  much  reflection  President  Roosevelt  seems  to 
have  reached  the  conclusion  that  Marshall  was  truly  indispensable  as 
Chief  of  Staff.®  Thus  the  choice  fell  on  General  Eisenhower,  to  the 
surprise  of  the  appointee,  who  heard  the  news  from  the  President  at 

* See  below,  p.  409. 


4 


WINTER  BOMBING 

Tunis.10  After  a visit  to  the  United  States,  Eisenhower  reached  Lon- 
don in  mid-January  1944  to  assume  command  of  what  soon  became 
known  as  the  Supreme  Headquarters,  Allied  Expeditionary  Forces 
and  more  commonly  simply  as  SHAEF. 

Already,  significant  progress  had  been  made  toward  developing  the 
air  organization  upon  which  the  supreme  commander  would  depend 
during  the  invasion.  At  Quebec  in  the  preceding  August,  Air  Chief 
Marshal  Sir  Trafford  Leigh-Mallory,  former  head  of  RAF  Fighter 
Command  and  chief  air  planner  with  COSSAC,  had  been  designated 
air  commander  in  chief  of  the  Allied  Expeditionary  Air  Force 
(AEAF).  Leigh-Mallory  activated  his  headquarters  on  25  November 
1943  and  established  it  a short  time  later  at  Stanmore,  Middlesex,  a 
pleasant  suburb  of  London  and  formerly  seat  of  RAF  Fighter  Com- 
mand. His  deputy,  Maj.  Gen.  William  O.  Butler,  headed  the  American 
contingent  of  the  new  headquarters.  Under  AEAF  came  the  RAF 
Second  Tactical  Air  Force  and,  after  15  December,  the  rapidly  grow- 
ing U.S.  Ninth  Air  Force,  commanded  by  Maj.  Gen.  Lewis  H.  Brere- 
ton.* 

The  question  of  the  extent  of  Leigh-Mallory’s  responsibility  had 
proved  from  the  first  to  be  a troublesome  one.  Was  he  merely  to  co- 
ordinate the  operations  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force  and  of  British  tactical 
units?  Or  was  AEAF  to  become  a highly  centralized  command  exer- 
cising wide  operational  and  administrative  powers  over  its  component 
parts?  With  this  second  view  the  new  air  commander  in  chief  was  in 
full  accord.  More  than  that,  he  implied  an  ambition  as  well  to  control 
the  heavy  bomber  forces  when  he  contended  that  both  strategic  and 
tactical  air  forces  should  come  under  one  air  commander,  but  he  weak- 
ened such  prospect  as  he  had  of  gaining  that  control  by  his  often-ex- 
pressed opinion  that  it  would  not  be  necessary  to  achieve  complete  air 
supremacy  before  launching  the  invasion.11  All  AAF  thinking  rested 
upon  the  assumption  that  the  full  resources  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force 
must  be  concentrated  on  the  successful  completion  of  the  Combined 
Bomber  Offensive  against  Germany’s  war  potential  and  particularly 
against  the  German  Air  Force  as  an  indispensable  preliminary  to  the 
invasion.  Consequently,  American  air  officers  both  in  Washington  and 
in  England  undertook  to  delimit  the  powers  of  the  AEAF.  General 
Butler  tried  in  vain  to  secure  capable  AAF  officers  of  sufficiently  high 
rank  to  make  of  AEAF  a genuine  Anglo-American  organization. 

• See  Vol.  II,  735-40.  On  the  Ninth  Air  Force,  see  ibid.,  49 6,  641-43. 


5 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


Leigh-Mallory’s  command  early  received  and  never  quite  lost  its  repu- 
tation of  being  a British-dominated  organization,  a factor  which  dimin- 
ished its  effectiveness  and  later  caused  it  to  be  by-passed  in  many  impor- 
tant matters. 

Partly  to  offset  AEAF,  the  United  States  Strategic  Air  Forces  in 
Europe  (USSTAF)  had  been  established  as  of  i January  1944  with 
administrative  control  over  both  the  Eighth  and  Ninth  Air  Forces.* 
While  thus  serving  to  preserve  administrative  controls  on  a national 
basis,  USSTAF  also  provided  the  means  for  coordinating  the  heavy 
bomber  operations  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force  in  the  United  Kingdom 
with  those  of  the  recently  established  Fifteenth  Air  Force  in  the  Medi- 
terranean. The  American  leaders  had  hoped  for  more  than  this— for  an 
inclusive  organizational  structure  incorporating  under  one  commander 
all  operations  from  the  Atlantic  and  the  Mediterranean  against  the 
Axis  and  combining  in  one  air  command  all  British  and  American 
strategic  bomber  forces.12  The  British  chiefs,  however,  were  unwilling 
to  subordinate  RAF’s  Bomber  Command  to  such  a unified  control, 
which  threatened  also  to  interfere  with  contemplated  projects  in  the 
Mediterranean.  Indeed,  it  proved  impossible  to  gain  consent  even  for 
the  proposal  that  some  arrangement  should  be  made  for  the  more  effec- 
tive coordination  of  the  operations  of  Bomber  Command  and  the 
Eighth  Air  Force,  for  the  British  resisted  any  attempt  to  disturb  the 
virtually  independent  position  of  Bomber  Commands  Sir  Charles 
Portal,  chief  of  air  staff,  RAF,  would  continue  to  serve,  as  he  had  be- 
fore, as  the  coordinating  agent  of  the  Combined  Chiefs  of  Staff  for 
strategic  bomber  operations  against  Germany,  but  the  strategic  air 
forces  remained  outside  the  OVERLORD  command  chain  with  a rela- 
tionship undefined  until  well  into  the  spring  of  1944. 

It  was  natural  that  Eisenhower  should  have  brought  with  him  to  his 
new  command  many  of  the  officers  closely  associated  with  his  achieve- 
ments in  Africa  and  the  Mediterranean,  including  Air  Chief  Marshal 
Sir  Arthur  W.  Tedder  who  was  named  deputy  supreme  commander, 
Lt.  Gen.  Carl  Spaatz  who  assumed  command  of  USSTAF,  and  Maj. 
Gen.  James  H.  Doolittle  who  replaced  Lt.  Gen.  Ira  C.  Eaker  as  com- 
mander of  the  Eighth  Air  Force.  Eaker,  meanwhile,  had  been  re- 
assigned as  head  of  the  newly  established  Mediterranean  Allied  Air 

* See  Vol.  II,  740-44, 751—56. 

+ Ibid.,  721-28. 

6 


WINTER  BOMBING 


Forces.*  General  Eisenhower  had  expected  Spaatz  to  manage  heavy 
bomber  operations  for  OVERLORD,  and  he  was  a little  surprised  that 
Tedder,  who  he  had  hoped  would  serve  as  his  “chief  air  man,”  was  in  a 
vague  position  as  officer  without  portfolio  in  air  matters  while  “a  man 
named  Mallory”  was  titular  air  commander  in  chief.13  But  with  vet- 
erans from  an  old  team  to  help,  it  might  be  anticipated  that  all  prob- 
lems of  command  could  be  solved.  Meanwhile,  the  approaching  climax 
of  the  Combined  Bomber  Offensive  held  the  focus  of  attention. 

The  CBO  had  been  inaugurated  in  the  spring  of  1943  in  accordance 
with  a directive  issued  by  the  Combined  Chiefs  of  Staff  to  accomplish 
“the  progressive  destruction  and  dislocation  of  the  German  military, 
industrial  and  economic  system,  and  the  undermining  of  the  morale  of 
the  German  people  to  a point  where  their  capacity  for  armed  resist- 
ance is  fatally  weakened.”14  Detailed  plans  had  envisaged  an  offensive, 
developed  in  four  phases  of  three  months  each,  that  would  reach  its 
climax  by  1 April  1 944.  These  plans  did  not  attempt  to  look  beyond  the 
invasion  of  Europe,  for  it  was  as  a preliminary  to  OVERLORD  that 
the  CBO  found  its  place  in  Allied  strategy.t 

In  theory  at  least,  the  bomber  offensive  embraced  the  combined 
efforts  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force  (supplemented  after  1 November  1943 
by  those  of  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force)  t and  of  the  RAF  Bomber  Com- 
mand. The  American  bombers  would  attack  key  installations  according 
to  the  AAF’s  own  doctrine  of  daylight  precision  bombardment,  while 
planes  of  the  RAF  struck  by  night  in  accordance  with  its  policy  of 
bombing  industrial  areas  and  centers  of  population.  AAF  and  RAF 
forces  had  the  same  general  objective,  which  was  destruction  of  the 
German  ability  to  make  war,  but  the  target  systems  specified  in  the 
CBO  plan  had  been  elaborated  by  an  American  committee  and  were 
suited  primarily  to  the  operating  methods  of  the  American  force.  It 
was  assumed  that  the  “area”  bombing  of  the  RAF  would  be  comple- 
mentary to  the  daylight  campaign,  but,  owing  mainly  to  differences  in 
tactics  and  operating  potentialities,  the  two  forces  in  fact  seldom 
achieved  more  than  a general  coordination  of  effort.  The  CBO  was 
thus  a combined  offensive  but  not  a closely  integrated  one,  and  it  is 
possible  to  treat  the  American  daylight  bombing  campaign  as  a story 
separate  from,  though  naturally  closely  related  to,  that  of  the  RAF. 

* See  Vol.  II,  744-51. 

t Ibid.,  348-76. 

t On  the  origins  of  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force,  see  ibid.,  563-74,  723-27. 


7 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


The  Challenge  of  the  GAF 

On  27  December  1943,  General  Arnold  addressed  to  the  command- 
ing generals  of  the  Eighth  and  Fifteenth  Air  Forces  the  following  New 
Year’s  message: 

a.  Aircraft  factories  in  this  country  are  turning  out  large  quantities  of  airplanes, 
engines  and  accessories. 

b.  Our  training  establishments  are  operating  twenty-four  hours  per  day,  seven 
days  per  week  training  crews. 

c.  We  are  now  furnishing  fully  all  the  aircraft  and  crews  to  take  care  of  your 
attrition. 

d.  It  is  a conceded  fact  that  OVERLORD  and  ANVIL  will  not  be  possible 
unless  the  German  Air  Force  is  destroyed. 

e.  Therefore,  my  personal  message  to  you— this  is  a MUST— is  to,  “Destroy 
the  Enemy  Air  Force  wherever  you  find  them,  in  the  air,  on  the  ground  and 
in  the  factories .”15 

Thus,  in  brief  compass  if  not  in  perfect  literary  form,  did  the  com- 
manding general  of  the  Army  Air  Forces  lend  emphasis  to  the  most 
urgent  problem  confronting  the  U.S.  heavy  bomber  forces  at  the  be- 
ginning of  1944. 

The  German  Air  Force,  and  particularly  its  fighter  strength,  had 
been  designated  in  the  original  CBO  directive  as  “an  Intermediate  ob- 
jective second  to  none  in  priority.”*  “Intermediate”  was  here  used  in 
the  AAF  sense  of  an  objective  to  be  accomplished  before  the  critical 
target  systems  could  be  reached;  actually  the  growing  resistance  to 
Eighth  Air  Force  missions  in  the  fall  of  1943  had  made  it  clear  that  the 
destruction  of  the  Luftwaffe  before  the  Normandy  D-day  was  the 
AAF’s  most  immediate  task.  Indeed,  the  CBO  in  its  last  phase  became 
so  completely  a counter-air  offensive  that  the  code  name 
POINTBLANK  came  commonly,  though  erroneously,  to  mean  the 
attack  on  the  GAF  rather  than  the  combined  offensive  in  its  broader 
outlined 

The  Eighth  Air  Force,  freed  of  an  earlier  necessity  to  devote  much 
of  its  limited  strength  to  generally  unprofitable  attacks  on  submarine 
facilities  and  possessed  of  a steadily  growing  strength  that  would  reach 
a total  of  twenty- five  heavy  bombardment  groups  by  the  end  of  1943  d 
had  attacked  during  the  summer  and  early  fall  in  increasing  force  such 
high-priority  targets  as  the  ball-bearing  plants  at  Schweinfurt  and  air- 

* See  Vol.  II,  366-67. 
t Ibid.,  712-30. 

; On  the  build-up  of  AAF  forces  in  the  United  Kingdom,  see  ibid.,  635-64. 

8 


WINTER  BOMBING 


craft  factories  at  Regensburg,  Marienburg,  and  Bremen.  Many  of  these 
targets  lay  deep  in  enemy  territory,  and  repeatedly  the  bombing  had 
been  both  accurate  and  destructive.  As  yet,  it  is  true,  the  attack  had  had 
little  immediate  effect  on  German  front-line  strength,  for  the  Germans, 
confident  of  a quick  victory,  had  not  completely  mobilized  their  in- 
dustrial organization16  and  still  possessed  in  1943  unused  production 
capacity  which  served  as  a cushion  protecting  them  from  the  full  effect 
of  the  combined  AAF  and  RAF  attack.  But  that  attack  had  been 
pressed  to  a point  greatly  reducing  the  remaining  cushion,  and  the 
German  economy,  in  some  of  its  more  critical  aspects,  would  be  seri- 
ously affected  by  additional  destruction. 

The  difficulty,  from  the  point  of  view  of  the  AAF,  lay  in  the  fact 
that  the  German  Air  Force  and  its  supporting  industry  had  been  able 
to  absorb  increasing  punishment  without  decline  in  combat  strength. 
Indeed,  as  the  loss  of  60  out  of  228  bombers  attacking  Schweinfurt  on 
14  October  emphasized,*  the  GAF  gave  every  evidence  of  increas- 
ing rather  than  declining  strength.  Not  until  after  the  cessation  of  hos- 
tilities was  the  full  record  of  enemy  activity  available,  a record  which 
revealed  that  the  stimulus  provided  by  the  Allied  air  attack  had  stirred 
the  Germans  to  an  effort  that  would  bring  the  peak  in  their  wartime 
aircraft  production  as  late  as  the  summer  of  1944.17  This  in  itself  repre- 
sented a not  inconsiderable  victory  for  the  bombers,  for  they  had 
forced  the  enemy  to  concentrate  an  increasing  proportion  of  his  war 
effort  on  the  construction  of  airplanes  now  used  for  purely  defensive 
purposes.  But  even  had  this  fact  been  fully  understood  in  the  fall  of 
1943,  it  could  have  provided  only  limited  comfort  for  the  bomber 
crews  who  undertook  to  fight  their  way  through  a stiffening  resistance 
in  the  air  and  from  the  ground. 

Efforts  already  under  way  to  provide  long-range  fighter  escort  for 
the  bombers  promised  an  answer  to  the  problem,  but  for  a while  it 
seemed  a question  whether  the  supply  of  long-range  escort  could  be 
obtained  in  time  to  keep  pace  with  the  accelerating  air  war.  Although 
as  early  as  August  the  radius  of  action  of  the  P-47  had  been  extended 
to  340  miles,  the  problem  of  escort  for  deep  penetrations  into  Germany 
was  faced  squarely  only  after  lack  of  escort  had  seriously  hampered 
the  execution  of  POINTBLANK.+  Hopes  were  pinned  initially  on 
the  P-38,  when  on  15  October  1943  the  55th  Fighter  Group  joined 

* See  Vol.  II,  699-704. 

t Ibid.,  334-37.  65+~55.  679-81. 


9 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


the  seven  P-47  groups  already  operating  with  VIII  Fighter  Command. 
With  the  addition  of  two  75-gallon  wing  tanks  the  Lightning  could 
perform  escort  to  a maximum  of  520  miles  from  bases.18  On  the  Wil- 
helmshaven  mission  of  3 November  the  superior  endurance  now  pos- 
sessed by  this  group  proved  especially  valuable  during  the  farthest  leg 
of  the  journey  and  made  the  escort  virtually  continuous  throughout 
the  bomber  route.  In  the  process  the  P-38’s,  already  favored  among 
fighters  in  the  Mediterranean  and  the  Pacific,  saw  their  first  real  com- 
bat in  the  ETO  and  enjoyed  their  first  victory,  claiming  three  of  the 
enemy  without  losing  a single  one  of  their  number.  They  could  prob- 
ably have  destroyed  more  but  remained,  according  to  the  strict  orders 
then  governing  their  tactics,  in  close  support  of  the  bombers,  warding 
off  attacks  and  refusing  to  be  drawn  off  in  independent  combat.19 

Again  during  a pathfinder  mission  to  Bremen  on  1 3 November  the 
P-38’s  demonstrated  their  ability  to  go  the  distance  (the  longest  to  date 
for  fighter  escort),  tangle  on  more  than  equal  terms  with  the  enemy, 
and  provide  invaluable  support  for  the  bombers  over  the  target  area. 
The  enemy  fought  tenaciously,  employing  all  of  his  considerable  stock 
of  tricks  to  draw  off  the  escort  and  reach  the  bombers.  He  seemed  espe- 
cially anxious  to  maneuver  his  twin-engine  rocket-firing  planes  (mostly 
Ju-88’s)  into  a position  from  which  they  could  deliver  an  attack  un- 
molested by  escort  fighters.  Rocket  fire  had  by  this  time  become  the 
most  deadly  of  the  tactics  used  by  the  Germans  against  the  bomber 
formations,  and  it  was  consequently  a matter  of  the  keenest  concern 
to  both  sides  to  see  how  effective  the  new  longer-range  fighter  escort 
would  be  in  foiling  these  attacks  as  well  as  the  more  routine  passes 
attempted  by  the  single-engine  Me-ioq’s  and  FW- 1 po’s.20 

Left  alone  after  the  P-47?s  had  reached  the  limit  of  their  endurance 
the  relatively  small  force  of  forty -seven  P~38’s  found  themselves  out- 
numbered, possibly  as  much  as  five  to  one.  As  a result  they  were  badly 
mauled.  Although  only  two  of  their  number  were  known  to  have  been 
shot  down,  five  others  failed  to  return.  In  addition,  sixteen  of  those 
that  came  back  were  battle  damaged.  One  pilot  demonstrated  the  dura- 
bility of  the  P-38  by  bringing  his  plane  back  from  Bremen  on  one  en- 
gine. Technicians  who  examined  the  craft  discovered  more  than  one 
hundred  bullet  holes  and  five  20-mm.  shell  holes.  The  twin  tails  and 
the  vertical  stabilizer  were  badly  damaged,  but  the  pilot  was  unhurt. 
Despite  the  losses  and  damage  suffered,  and  despite  the  fact  that  the 
number  of  enemy  aircraft  shot  down  was  not  impressive,  the  P-38’s 

10 


WINTER  BOMBING 


were  responsible  again  for  holding  bomber  losses  in  the  target  area  to  a 
supportable  level;  and  it  could  reasonably  be  hoped  that  a larger  force 
could  do  the  job  still  more  effectively  and  with  relatively  less  cost  to 
the  escort  itself.21 

The  P-38  was  clearly  a most  effective  fighter,  and  the  Germans 
honored  it  with  an  increasing  share  of  attention.22  But  it  was  also  the 
easiest  of  the  Allied  fighters  for  the  enemy  to  identify  and  therefore 
attack.  It  was  becoming  evident  that  the  P-5 1 could  be  developed  into 
a more  maneuverable  fighter  and,  even  more  important,  into  one  of 
longer  range.  During  the  fall  and  winter  months,  therefore,  many  ob- 
servers tended  to  look  increasingly  to  the  Mustang  (hitherto  considered 
primarily  an  attack  fighter)  as  the  answer  to  the  problem  of  the  “long 
reach.” 

In  September  1943  General  Arnold  urged  the  RAF  to  put  as  many 
of  its  Mustang-equipped  squadrons  as  possible  at  the  disposal  of  the 
Eighth  Air  Force  for  long-range  escort.  Air  Chief  Marshal  Portal 
agreed  to  devote  four  such  units  to  the  daylight  bombing  project  in 
January  of  1944.  On  October  30  General  Arnold  decided  to  stop  any 
allocation  of  long-range  P-5i’s  or  P-38’s  from  going  to  tactical  recon- 
naissance units  or  to  any  theater  other  than  the  United  Kingdom  for 
the  remainder  of  1943— this  despite  urgent  requirements  for  those  types 
in  other  quarters.23  For  the  rest  of  the  year  the  P-5 1 remained  linked  in 
American  air  plans  with  the  P-38  as  essential  to  the  long-range  escort 
problem.24  By  the  end  of  the  year  Maj.  Gen.  William  E.  Kepner,  of 
VIII  Fighter  Command,  referred  to  the  P^i’s  as  “distinctly  the  best 
fighter  that  we  can  get  over  here,”  adding  that,  in  view  of  “pending 
developments  in  Germany,”  they  are  “going  to  be  the  only  satisfactory 
answer.”25  Meanwhile,  however,  all  P-5 1 units  destined  for  the  ETO 
were  being  assigned  to  the  Ninth  Air  Force,  which  was  being  groomed 
for  the  tactical  support  of  OVERLORD.  This  situation,  which  Gen- 
eral Kepner  deplored,  had  for  practical  purposes  been  remedied  by  an 
agreement  made  late  in  October  establishing  the  support  and  protec- 
tion of  the  heavy  bombers  engaged  in  POINTBLANK  as  the  primary 
tactical  role  of  all  U.S.  fighter  units  in  the  United  Kingdom  until  fur- 
ther notice.26  Accordingly,  the  one  P-51  group  (the  354th)  operating 
in  the  theater  prior  to  1 944  flew  almost  exclusively  in  support  of  the 
daylight  bombing  campaign  and  under  VIII  Fighter  Command  con- 
trol, although  assigned  to  IX  Fighter  Command. 

The  P-5 1 ’s  of  the  3 54th  Group  for  the  first  time  flew  escort  in  a stra- 

1 1 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

tegic  mission  on  5 December  when  two  wings  of  heavy  bombers  struck 
targets  in  the  Paris  area.  Two  squadrons  of  P-5i’s  escorted  the  B-iy’s 
from  the  French  coast  to  Poix,  southwest  of  Amiens,  where  P-47’s  re- 
lieved the  P-5i’s  for  the  remainder  of  the  mission.27  On  13  December 
P-5  i’s  helped  take  a large  force  of  bombers  to  Kiel.  It  was  an  all-out 
effort,  involving  no  less  than  7 1 o bombers— the  largest  force  dispatched 
to  that  date.  Three  of  the  twelve  combat  wings  sent  out  by  VIII 
Bomber  Command  attacked  Bremen  under  escort  provided  chiefly  by 
P-47  groups.  The  larger  force,  comprising  the  remaining  nine  wings, 
attacked  Kiel  with  support  in  the  target  area  from  the  two  long-range 
units  of  P~38’s  and  P^i’s.  This  was  the  first  time  the  P-5  i’s  had  flown 
to  what  was  then  the  limit  of  their  escort  range.  Enemy  reaction  proved 
exceptionally  weak,  however,  and  the  Mustangs  saw  only  light  action, 
claiming  one  Me-i  10  probably  destroyed  and  losing  one  of  their  num- 
ber, cause  unknown.28  On  20  December  in  the  course  of  another  of  the 
bombing  trips  to  Bremen  the  P-5ES  and  P-38’s  were  engaged  more 
briskly.  The  P-47’s  provided  support  for  the  bombers  to  and  from  the 
target,  leaving  to  the  longer-range  units  the  task  of  protecting  the 
bombers  over  the  target  area.  This  time  the  enemy  reacted  with  con- 
siderable intensity,  trying  as  usual  to  place  his  rocket-firing  twin-en- 
gine fighters  in  position  to  attack  under  the  protection  of  the  single- 
engine planes.  This  the  forty-four  P-5i’s  and  thirty-five  P-38’s  were 
able  effectively  to  prevent.  The  former  accounted  for  three  enemy  air- 
craft destroyed  and  one  probably  destroyed  at  a cost  of  three  of  their 
own  pilots  and  planes.20  Again  on  a large  pathfinder  mission  to  Lud- 
wigshafen  on  30  December  both  the  P-5i’s  and  the  P-38’s  performed 
creditably  at  what  was  then  considered  extreme  fighter  range.30  By 
January  1944  the  value  of  the  P-51  as  a long-range  escort  plane  had 
become  so  apparent  that  the  principles  on  which  allocations  had  been 
made  in  the  theater  between  the  Eighth  and  Ninth  Air  Forces  were 
completely  revised.  On  24  January  British  and  American  commanders 
came  to  an  agreement  which  placed  most  of  the  P-51  units  in  the 
Eighth  Air  Force.31  Eventually,  the  Eighth  would  be  equipped  almost 
exclusively  with  P-5i’s,  the  P-47’s  and  the  P-38’s  being  transferred  to 
the  Ninth  Air  Force.32 

To  the  amazement  of  many  seasoned  observers  (not  the  least  of 
whom  was  Hermann  Goering),  the  American  fighters  flew  with  the 
bombers  to  Berlin  and  even  beyond  by  March  1944.  But  this  triumph 
came  only  at  the  end  of  a winter  during  which  much  uncertainty  had 


12 


WINTER  BOMBING 


continued  to  hang  over  the  CBO.  It  had  been  recognized  in  November 
1943  that  the  growing  power  of  the  GAF  demanded  an  all-out  attack 
on  the  German  aircraft  industry  by  the  Eighth  and  Fifteenth  Air 
Forces.33  The  plan  for  such  a coordinated  attack,  drafted  at  that  time 
and  coded  ARGUMENT,34  was  based  on  a realistic  appreciation  of 
the  high  cost  that  would  have  to  be  paid  in  the  absence  of  effective 
escort.  To  speak  in  the  unavoidably  impersonal  calculus  of  strategic 
bombardment,  it  was  assumed  that  only  a high  profit  could  justify  the 
anticipated  cost,  and  so  the  plan  called  for  approximately  a full  week 
of  clear  weather  over  most  of  central  Europe  with  good  enough 
weather  in  the  base  areas  of  southern  Italy  and  eastern  England  to 
permit  the  bombers  to  take  off  and  land.  That  stretch  of  favorable 
weather  did  not  come  until  well  into  February,  when  the  Eighth  and 
Fifteenth  Air  Forces  launched  the  series  of  coordinated  attacks  later 
christened  the  “Big  Week.”* 


Radar  Bombing 

Meanwhile  the  Eighth  Air  Force  had  plunged  into  an  intensive  ex- 
periment in  radar  bombing  in  an  effort  to  reduce  as  far  as  possible  the 
limitations  imposed  by  the  fall  and  winter  weather.  Although  it  was 
hoped  that  radar  equipment  could  in  time  be  made  reasonably  accurate, 
it  was  not  considered  a substitute  for  visual  bombing  but  rather  a sup- 
plement which  would  allow  the  daylight  bombing  force  to  maintain 
the  pressure  of  strategic  bombardment  on  German  morale  and  on 
the  German  economy  as  a whole.  Admittedly  a campaign  of  radar 
bombing  would  involve  some  compromise  with  the  doctrine  of  “pre- 
cision” bombing  and  with  the  POINTBLANK  priorities,  strictly  in- 
terpreted.35 In  its  early  stages  at  any  rate,  radar  missions  would  be  re- 
stricted to  targets  which  would  show  up  clearly  on  the  radar  screen— 
for  the  most  part  city  areas  located  on  coast  lines  or  on  estuaries,  since 
the  distinction  between  water  and  land  was  easy  to  recognize  and  this 
greatly  facilitated  target  identification.  Moreover,  although  any  large 
industrial  area  could  be  located  without  too  much  difficulty,  it  was  not 
possible  to  identify  specific  factories  unless  they  happened  to  be  un- 
usually isolated  and  unusually  extensive.38  But  it  seemed  better  to  bomb 
low-priority  targets  frequently,  even  with  less  than  precision  accuracy, 
than  not  to  bomb  at  all.  Accordingly,  from  mid-October  1943  to  mid- 

* See  below,  pp.  31  ff. 


13 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

February  1944  the  story  of  daylight  strategic  bombing  from  the  United 
Kingdom  is  essentially  the  story  of  an  experiment  in  radar  bombing. 

The  decision  to  use  radar  was,  of  course,  no  sudden  development  in 
the  fall  of  1943.*  In  the  previous  winter,  during  the  early  months  of 
its  operations  in  the  ETO,  the  Eighth  Air  Force  had  discovered  that 
the  weather  was  one  of  the  chief  obstacles  to  be  overcome.  Tricky 
enough  throughout  the  year,  weather  over  England  and  western  Eu- 
rope presented  peculiar  difficulties  in  the  fall  and  winter  months,  when 
severe  storms  could  be  expected  between  London  and  Berlin  on  the 
average  of  every  three  days  and  when  cloud  cover  over  Germany  was 
persistent  and  thick.37  General  Spaatz  and  General  Eaker  accordingly 
laid  plans  late  in  1942  to  develop  a pathfinder  unit,  radar-equipped  and 
trained  for  the  task  of  leading  bomber  formations  to  their  target  during 
conditions  of  poor  visibility.  Plans  prior  to  the  summer  of  1943  were 
based  largely  on  the  experience  of  the  RAF,  and  such  radar  installa- 
tions as  were  attempted  were  made  with  British  equipment.  Best  suited 
to  the  requirements  of  the  Eighth’s  long-range  missions  was  H2S,  a 
device  in  which  a beam  of  transmitted  energy  scanned  the  ground 
below  the  plane,  the  reflected  signals  presenting  a map-like  picture  on 
the  indicator  screen,  characterized  by  dark  areas  for  water,  light  areas 
for  ground,  and  bright  areas  for  broad  reflecting  surfaces  of  towns  and 
cities.38  Use  had  been  made  of  this  equipment  by  planes  of  the  48 2d 
Bombardment  Group  (H)  as  early  as  27  September  1943,  but  the  Brit- 
ish were  hard  pressed  to  meet  their  own  needs,  and  in  October  the 
Americans  were  still  experiencing  difficulty  in  using  H2S  at  high  alti- 
tudes.39 

Meanwhile,  in  the  United  States,  the  Radiation  Laboratory  at  M.I.T. 
had  undertaken  to  develop  an  improved  version  of  the  H2S  type.  Using 
a new  and  shorter  microwave  length  than  had  ever  been  used  before, 
scientists  there  built  a radar  set  which  would  give  a sharper  and  more 
faithful  picture  of  the  ground.  The  new  device,  called  H2X,  was 
being  put  into  production  in  the  summer  of  1943,  but  time  was  too 
precious  to  squander  waiting  for  the  arrival  of  factory  models;  so  the 
Radiation  Laboratory  agreed  to  build  twenty  sets,  enough  to  equip 
a dozen  B-iy’s  and  provide  the  necessary  spares.  These  twelve  planes, 
manned  by  crews  already  partially  trained  in  handling  H2X,  arrived 
in  England  early  in  October  to  join  the  482d  Group.  With  them  came 
scientists  of  the  Radiation  Laboratory,  who  set  up  a branch  of  that 

* See  V ol.  II,  689-94. 


1 4 


WINTER  BOMBING 


organization  in  the  United  Kingdom  for  the  purpose  of  coordinating 
the  work  of  the  laboratory  with  that  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force.  The 
H2X  crews  spent  the  remainder  of  October  in  further  training  and 
would  have  preferred  to  do  still  more  in  the  way  of  simulated  bombing 
missions  over  the  English  countryside.  The  bad  bombing  weather  was 
already  at  hand,  however,  and  they  were  ordered  to  complete  their 
training  over  Germany  itself,  each  crew  with  a combat  wing  of  sixty 
bombers  behind  it.40 

The  first  of  these  “practice”  missions  took  place  on  3 November 
when  eleven  pathfinder  planes  (nine  of  the  new  HzX  planes  were 
supported  by  two  carrying  H2S)41  led  a force  of  539  bombers  in  an 
attack  on  the  port  area  of  Wilhelmshaven.  Earlier  in  the  year  Wil- 
helmshaven  had  been  a high-priority  objective  for  the  American 
bombers  because  of  the  submarine  building  being  done  there.  It  had 
been  the  scene  of  the  first  Eighth  Air  Force  mission  over  German  soil,* 
and  it  had  been  attacked  on  several  other  occasions  prior  to  the  middle 
of  1943.  But  by  that  time  submarine  installations  had  lost  much  of  their 
importance  as  an  objective  for  strategic  bombing,  although  they  re- 
tained a high  place  in  the  as  yet  unrevised  CBO  directive.  Destruction 
of  the  ship-building  activities  at  Wilhelmshaven  doubtless  would  in- 
crease the  total  strain  on  German  industry,  but  it  would  certainly 
not  contribute  to  the  pressing,  short-term  results  being  sought  before 
D-day.  Like  many  other  target  selections  in  the  fall  and  winter  of  1943, 
the  decision  to  strike  Wilhelmshaven  reflected  the  needs  of  the  radar- 
bombing experiment  rather  than  those  of  the  POINTBLANK  cam- 
paign. That  city,  situated  on  the  coast  line  near  the  estuary  of  the 
Weser  River,  could  be  easily  identified  on  the  radar  screen  which 
registered  with  peculiar  clarity  the  contrast  between  water  and  land. 
By  routing  the  attacking  force  over  the  North  Sea  it  was  possible  to 
reach  the  port  with  a minimum  of  hazardous  time  spent  flying  over 
heavily  defended  enemy  territory.  Moreover,  it  was  now  possible  to 
provide  fighter  protection  throughout  the  entire  route.  All  of  the  above 
considerations  made  Wilhelmshaven  an  ideal  objective  for  a force  led 
by  inexperienced  pathfinder  crews.  A heavy  attack  promised,  withal, 
an  impressive  degree  of  general,  area  destruction. 

It  was  a significant  mission.  In  the  first  place  it  was  the  largest  yet 
sent  out  by  the  Eighth  Air  Force.  The  1st  and  3d  Bombardment  Di- 
visions (commanded  respectively  by  Brig.  Gens.  Robert  B.  Williams 

* See  Vol.  II,  323-24. 


G 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


and  Curtis  E.  LeMay)  each  dispatched  a task  force  of  over  two  hun- 
dred B-i7’s,  and  the  2d  Bombardment  Division,  under  the  command 
of  Brig.  Gen.  James  P.  Hodges,  sent  out  a task  force  of  117  B-24V 
Despite  conditions  of  poor  visibility  the  large  force  of  566  bombers 
assembled  without  difficulty;  and  of  this  number,  only  27  failed  to 
reach  the  objective  and  bomb.42  Of  greater  significance  was  the  fact 
that  the  attackers,  entirely  dependent  on  radar,  dropped  a record  bomb 
load  of  more  than  1,400  tons  through  a solid  layer  of  cloud  with 
enough  accuracy  to  hit  and  damage  the  aiming  point.  The  eleven  avail- 
able pathfinders  had  been  distributed  among  the  seven  combat  wings 
into  which  the  B-^’s  of  the  1st  and  3d  Divisions  had  been  divided. 
That  left  the  B-24’s  of  the  2d  Division  without  pathfinders  but  with 
instructions  to  release  their  bombs  on  parachute  marker  flares  dropped 
by  the  preceding  formations,  a procedure  which  left  considerable  room 
for  error,  since  the  interval  between  combat  wings  gave  time  for  the 
flares  to  drift  and  since  the  bombardiers  sometimes  found  it  hard  to 
distinguish  them  from  antiaircraft  bursts.  Compared  to  that  of  a well- 
executed  visual  mission,  the  bomb  pattern  for  the  day’s  operations  was 
widely  spread,  but  there  was  enough  of  a concentration  of  hits  within 
the  port  area  to  damage  many  of  the  ship-building  installations.43 

Stated  in  terms  of  strategic  results,  the  record  becomes  less  impres- 
sive. A British  Ministry  of  Home  Security  report,  dated  21  January 
1944,  estimated  that,  although  the  bombing  of  3 November  had  caused 
“moderate”  damage  to  workshops  in  the  port  area,  those  shops  had  not 
been  used  to  their  capacity  and  it  was  therefore  unlikely  that  the  dam- 
age caused  more  than  a week’s  delay  in  the  output  of  submarines.  No 
damage  to  the  hulls  being  built  at  the  time  of  the  attack  had  been  dis- 
cerned.44 But  in  the  context  of  the  radar-bombing  experiment  these 
facts  were  of  less  importance  than  that  the  yard  was  hit  at  all  through 
10/ 10  cloud  and  by  inexperienced  pathfinder  crews. 

Also  encouraging  to  the  Eighth  Air  Force  was  the  relatively  slight 
loss  suffered.  Only  7 of  the  539  attacking  bombers  were  lost  and,  of 
these,  probably  only  3 were  shot  down  by  enemy  aircraft.  The  Ger- 
man fighters,  faced  with  the  problem  of  rising  to  the  attack  through 
the  overcast,  did  not  react  in  as  large  numbers  as  on  some  earlier  occa- 
sions. But  the  principal  reason  for  the  defensive  success  of  the  mission 
lay  in  the  superior  fighter  support  afforded  by  eight  groups  from  VIII 
Fighter  Command.  To  the  effectiveness  of  this  support  the  statements 
made  after  the  mission  by  crew  members  whose  experience  had  in- 

16 


WINTER  BOMBING 


eluded  the  tough  air  fighting  of  early  October  gave  eloquent  and  unani- 
mous testimony:  “This  was  my  25th  mission,  and  for  me  it  turned  out 
to  be  the  milk-run  of  all  milk-runs.”  “Not  a fighter  could  be  seen  up 
there  today  except  our  own.”  “We’ll  have  a milk  bottle  instead  of  a 
bomb  pasted  on  our  ship  for  this  mission.  Enemy  fighters  came  up, 
took  a look  at  us,  and  went  home.”45 

This  first  H2X  mission  encouraged  the  believers  in  radar  bombing 
and  converted  the  doubtful,  perhaps  too  readily,  for  the  results  gained 
that  day  were  to  a large  extent  beginner’s  luck,  as  in  time  became 
apparent.  The  Wilhelmshaven  mission  gave  an  unfounded  hope  of  po- 
tential accuracy;  and  it  may  therefore  have  contributed  to  an  unfortu- 
nate tendency  to  treat  H2X  as  a rival  of  visual  bombing  rather  than  a 
supplement  to  it.  It  may  also  have  helped  to  make  the  Eighth  too  easily 
satisfied  with  the  greatly  accelerated  rate  of  operations  it  was  able  to 
achieve  during  the  remainder  of  the  winter  through  the  use  of  the 
new  equipment.  However  limited  may  have  been  the  strategic  results 
achieved,  this  acceleration  did  serve  to  meet  the  insistent  demand  from 
Headquarters,  AAF  that  the  Eighth  go  all  out.* 

Certainly  the  rate  of  operations  in  November  was  remarkable.  At 
no  date  during  the  month  would  the  weather  forecast  have  warranted 
a visual  attack  against  objectives  in  Germany,  yet  German  targets  were 
attacked  nine  times.  On  two  other  occasions  visual  attacks  were  made 
on  objectives  in  Norway.4"  During  December,  with  the  weather  map 
equally  discouraging  for  visual  bombing,  the  Eighth  dropped  more 
bombs  than  ever  before  in  any  one  month  (13,142  tons)47  and  for  the 
first  time  exceeded  the  tonnage  dropped  by  RAF  Bomber  Command.48 
Occasionally,  of  course,  it  was  possible  to  bomb  visually  by  making  use 
of  chance  breaks  in  the  undercast;  but  on  the  few  occasions' when  such 
a shift  was  accomplished,  the  weather  forecast  would  not  have  war- 
ranted dispatching  a force  of  bombers  on  a purely  visual  mission.49 

Most  of  the  radar-bombing  missions  conducted  during  the  remainder 
of  1943  were  led  by  H2X  planes,  often  supported  by  the  few  equipped 
with  H2S.  Occasionally  ground  radar  of  the  Oboe  typet  was  used 
when  targets  in  the  near-by  Ruhr  area  were  selected  for  attack.  On 
5 November,  for  example,  a heavy  force  of  bombers  was  dispatched 
to  Gelsenkirchen  and  Munster,  both  within  operating  radius  of  the 

• See  Vol.  II,  715-21. 

t Oboe,  unlike  H2S,  depended  on  beams  transmitted  by  ground  stations  and  thus 
could  be  used  only  for  short-range  missions  into  Germany.  See  ibid.,  690-91. 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


Oboe  equipment,  and  the  force  was  accordingly  led  by  Oboe  path- 
finder aircraft.  Two  days  later  Oboe  again  was  used.  Although  theo- 
retically more  accurate  within  its  range  than  the  self-contained  H2X, 
Oboe  presented  so  many  technical  difficulties  that  the  Eighth  Air  Force 
commanders  became  reluctant  to  use  it.50  On  10  December,  General 
Eaker  urgently  recommended  an  intensive  program  of  H2X  produc- 
tion, one  which  would  give  that  equipment  priority  over  all  other  radar 
aids  destined  for  the  Eighth.  Tests  conducted  during  the  previous  six 
weeks  had,  he  claimed,  proved  conclusively  that  H2X  was  the  most 
promising  equipment  for  winter  campaign.  As  a planning  objective  he 
suggested  six  fTX-equipped  planes  per  heavy  bombardment  group.51 

The  H2X  equipment  was,  however,  discouragingly  slow  in  coming. 
Manufacture  on  a production  basis  took  time;  and  there  were  other 
competing  claims  on  the  product.52  The  situation  had  not  improved 
in  mid-January  1944.  General  Spaatz  wrote  to  General  Arnold  as  fol- 
lows: “The  most  critical  need  of  the  Strategic  Air  Forces  is  for  more 
Pathfinder  aircraft.  A few  H2X  planes  now  will  profit  our  cause  more 
than  several  hundred  in  six  months.”53  Not  until  February  of  that  year 
did  production  models  of  H2X  begin  to  reach  the  United  Kingdom.54 
Meanwhile  the  same  dozen  B-^’s,  equipped  with  the  same  hand-made 
H2X  models  and  manned  by  the  same  overworked  crews,  continued 
to  lead  increasingly  heavy  forces  to  German  industrial  cities. 

The  size  of  the  missions  mounted  by  the  Eighth  Air  Force  during 
the  latter  part  of  1943,  together  with  their  unprecedented  frequency, 
was  certainly  their  most  outstanding  characteristic.  Operating  strength 
of  the  Eighth  increased  from  20!  heavy  bomber  groups  in  October 
to  25!  groups  at  the  end  of  December;  and  the  ability  of  the  groups 
to  maintain  a high  rate  of  operations  increased  even  more  rapidly.  The 
record  set  on  3 November  of  566  bombers  dispatched  was  broken  on 
26  November  when  VIII  Bomber  Command  sent  out  633.  On  13  De- 
cember a total  of  710  bombers  took  off  on  a combat  mission.  On 
Christmas  Eve  the  record  was  again  raised,  this  time  to  722,  of  which 
670  were  able  to  complete  the  mission.55 

This  spectacular  acceleration  in  the  daylight  bombing  offensive, 
made  possible  by  radar  bombing,  tended  to  shift  attention  from  stra- 
tegic results.  At  a time  of  year  when  precision  visual  attacks  were 
almost  out  of  the  question,  it  could  reasonably  be  assumed  that  damage 
inflicted  on  areas  important  to  the  enemy  war  effort  was  helpful,  re- 
gardless of  the  value,  measured  in  terms  of  POINTBLANK,  the  dam- 

18 


WINTER  BOMBING 


aged  property  might  possess.  There  had,  indeed,  been  a tendency  on 
the  part  of  American  air  planners  in  the  theater  during  early  fall  to 
look  upon  the  forthcoming  radar-bombing  campaign  as  a highly  de- 
sirable, if  temporary,  shift  from  pinpoint  bombing  of  specific  factories 
to  the  British  technique  of  area  devastation  in  districts  of  industrial 
concentration.  Like  tbe  work  done  by  RAF  Bomber  Command,  such  a 
project  would  supplement  the  precision  objectives  of  the  POINT- 
BLANK  plan.  Not  only  would  property,  and  much  of  it  of  immediate 
value  to  the  war  machine,  be  destroyed  but  the  constant  clearance  and 
reconstruction  would  have  to  be  done  by  manpower  taken  directly  or 
indirectly  from  the  war  effort.  Aside  from  its  effect  on  civilian  morale, 
such  bombing  would  constitute  a direct  attack  on  manpower,  which 
was  naturally  (though  exaggeratedly)  considered  a critical  factor  in 
the  German  war  economy.56 

It  is  in  this  light  that  the  late  1943  campaign  must  be  estimated.  Few 
of  the  high-priority  POINTBLANK  targets  were  selected  for  attack. 
By  far  the  greatest  weight  of  bombs  fell  on  the  ship-building  and  port 
areas  of  Bremen,  Wilhelmshaven,  and  Kiel.  These  objectives,  chosen 
frankly  for  their  suitability  as  targets  for  a force  still  inexperienced  in 
the  techniques  of  radar  bombing,57  suffered  severely.  Bremen  in  par- 
ticular was  attacked  six  times  between  1 3 November  and  20  December, 
the  last  three  attacks  within  an  eight-day  period  and  involving  a total 
of  almost  1,200  heavy  bombers.58  It  was  impossible  to  determine  the 
exact  results  of  these  attacks  at  the  time.  Bombing  through  overcast 
obviously  precluded  strike  photos  in  most  instances,  and  destruction 
revealed  by  subsequent  photo  reconnaissance  was  hard  to  distinguish 
from  that  accomplished  by  the  many  previous  raids  made  by  both 
British  and  American  bombing  forces  against  the  same  areas.  It  is  not 
much  easier  now  that  enemy  records  are  available.  Little  more  can  be 
said  with  assurance  than  that,  as  area  bombing  went,  these  missions 
seem  to  have  been  effective.69 

Probably  the  most  successful  mission  of  the  period  was  that  of  1 3 
December  against  Kiel.  Conditions  were  perfect  for  radar  bombing- 
clouds  not  too  high  to  cause  trouble,  yet  thick  enough  to  provide  an 
absolutely  opaque  carpet  beneath  the  attacking  forces  and  one  through 
which  the  enemy  fighters  could  make  their  way  only  with  some  diffi- 
culty.80 A total  of  478  bombers,  12  of  them  pathfinders,  attacked.  The 
bombing  was  heavy  and,  for  blind  bombing,  well  concentrated.  Dam- 
age was  inflicted  on  town  and  dock  areas.  The  principal  submarine- 

19 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

building  yard,  Deutsche  Werke,  suffered  several  hits  both  by  high- 
explosive  and  incendiary  bombs.  The  latter  appear  to  have  done  the 
most  damage  to  hard-to-replace  machine  tools,  most  of  which  had  been 
well  protected  by  concrete  walls  against  blast  damage  from  any  of  the 
high-explosive  bombs  ordinarily  used.  The  contemporary  estimate  of  a 
production  loss  of  one  month  (the  equivalent  of  one  500-ton  sub- 
marine) appears  to  have  been  optimistic.  Much  additional  damage  of 
unassessable  value  was,  of  course,  inflicted  on  various  other  plants  and 
installations  in  the  dock  area.81 

Generally  speaking,  however,  the  bomb  patterns  made  by  path- 
finder-led  forces  in  November  and  December  were  too  scattered  to 
effect  more  than  accidental  damage  to  any  particular  industrial  plant 
or  installation  of  importance.  The  aiming  point  became  a highly  theo- 
retical term.  On  only  two  missions  did  bombs  fall  in  the  assigned  target 
area.  Photo  interpretation  indicated  that  only  6 of  the  total  of  15 1 com- 
bat boxes  depending  on  radar  (data  from  1 j October  to  15  December) 
dropped  their  bombs  within  one  mile  of  the  aiming  point;  1 7 dropped 
within  two  miles;  30  dropped  within  five  miles.  These  figures  are  of 
course  only  approximate,  because  they  do  not  include  the  large  number 
of  bombs  which  fell  in  water  nor  do  they  do  justice  to  the  incendiaries, 
the  pattern  of  which  is  more  difficult  than  that  of  high  explosives  to 
trace.  At  Bremen,  the  city  most  heavily  attacked,  no  high  explosives  fell 
within  two  miles  of  the  aiming  point,  and  only  five  combat  boxes  suc- 
ceeded in  placing  their  cargo  within  five  miles.  Especially  discouraging 
were  the  results  at  Ludwigshafen  on  30  December  when  the  I.  G. 
Farbenindustrie  plant  suffered  little  damage.  Though  an  inland  target, 
it  should  have  been  easily  identifiable  on  the  radar  screen  because  of  its 
position  on  the  Rhine,  and  the  radar  operators  had  by  that  time  the 
benefit  of  two  to  three  months’  experience.62 

By  the  end  of  the  year  it  was  becoming  clear  that  radar  aids  had  not 
worked,  and  were  not  likely  to  work,  miracles  of  accuracy.  They  had 
allowed  the  daylight  bombers  to  resort  during  prolonged  bad  weather 
to  a type  of  area  bombing  which  presumably  kept  pressure  on  the 
enemy  at  a time  when  he  might  have  been  recuperating.  That,  despite 
the  optimism  raised  by  the  beginner’s  luck  at  Wilhelmshaven  on  3 No- 
vember, was  all  most  air  planners  originally  had  expected  it  to  do,  at 
least  for  some  time.  By  the  end  of  the  year  any  increase  in  accuracy, 
it  was  evident,  would  depend  on  the  acquisition  of  more  and  better 
equipment  manned  by  more  and  still  better-trained  men  than  had 
hitherto  been  available.63 


20 


WINTER  BOMBING 


As,  with  the  coming  of  January,  General  Spaatz  assumed  the  primary 
responsibility  for  the  Combined  Bomber  Offensive,  the  factor  of  time 
lent  additional  urgency  to  plans  for  coordinated  and  sustained  attacks 
against  the  vital  centers  of  the  German  aircraft  industry.  But  the 
weather  continued  to  be  a faithful  Nazi  collaborator,  and  there  was 
nothing  to  do  but  wait  and,  meanwhile,  maintain  a constant  pressure 
on  the  German  war  economy  by  radar  bombing.  From  4 January  to 
15  February  the  heavy  bombers  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force  flew  combat 
missions  on  twenty-one  days.  Only  six  of  these  twenty-one  missions 
were  accomplished  entirely  by  visual  bombing  methods;  and  of  these 
six  only  two  were  against  industrial  targets  in  Germany.  Nine  of  the 
missions  flown  during  this  six-week  period  were  in  support  of  the 
CROSSBOW  operations  against  German  long-range  weapons  in  the 
Pas-de-Calais,#  but  they  were  undertaken  for  the  most  part  only  when 
more  meaty  objectives  in  the  Reich  were  out  of  reach;  and  with  one 
exception  they  were  not  carried  out  with  anything  like  full  combat 
strength.64 

The  year’s  operations  began  on  4 January  with  a heavy  radar-bomb- 
ing mission  against  the  port  installations  and  ship-building  plants  at 
Kiel,  with  Munster  as  a secondary  target.  Some  644  heavies  were  dis- 
patched, of  which  555  completed  their  bombing.  The  following  day 
the  Eighth  again  hit  Kiel,  along  with  several  other  objectives  scattered 
over  a thousand-mile  front.  The  2 1 5 bombers  that  reached  the  target 
at  Kiel  were  able  to  drop  their  bombs  on  visual  sighting  and  inflict 
severe  damage  to  three  of  the  buildings  of  Germania  Werft.65 

Two  days  later  the  bombers  flew  to  Ludwigshafen  under  the  guid- 
ance of  pathfinder  aircraft.  Visual  attack  on  high-priority  targets  in  the 
aircraft  industries  was  impossible  owing  to  cloudy  weather  and  Lud- 
wigshafen was  considered  an  easily  recognized  bombing  target.  The 
huge  chemical  works  of  the  I.  G.  Farbenindustrie  was  always  an  im- 
portant objective— even  more  important  than  the  air  planners  then  real- 
ized. It  was  felt  that  a follow-up  attack  on  Ludwigshafen  would  be  in 
order,  after  the  mission  of  30  December.66  Like  the  earlier  missions, 
that  of  7 January  was  not  without  effect.  The  Oppau  works  had  halted 
production  after  30  December,  and  had  only  resumed  ammonia  pro- 
duction on  5 January.  After  the  January  attack  no  methanol  or  isobutyl 
oil  was  produced  for  the  remainder  of  the  month.  Just  as  production 
of  these  items  was  being  resumed  it  was  again  halted  by  another  Eighth 
Air  Force  radar-bombing  attack  on  11  February  which  stopped  iso- 

* See  below,  Chap.  4, 

2 I 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

butyl  oil  production  for  two  weeks  and  methanol  production  for  five 
weeks.  These  attacks  constituted  part  of  a series  of  early  efforts  begin- 
ning on  23  September  1943,  by  both  British  and  American  forces,  which 
substantially  reduced  average  daily  production  of  important  chemi- 
cals.87 Taken  together  they  came  close  to  justifying  radar  bombing  as  a 
method  of  striking  a selected  industry.  Yet  the  results  were  still  small 
in  proportion  to  the  total  weight  of  attack.  For  example,  out  of  a total 
of  279.5  tons  °f  high  explosives  dropped  over  Ludwigshafen  on  7 Janu- 
ary, 127  bombs,  totaling  36  tons,  hit  the  I.  G.  Farben  plant.88 

On  1 1 January  the  weather  over  central  Germany  cleared  for  a very 
brief  period,  but  long  enough  to  allow  the  Eighth  to  dispatch  a heavy 
force  to  the  high-priority  targets  in  the  German  aircraft  industry.  A 
force  of  663  B-i7’s  and  B-24’s  was  dispatched  to  bomb  the  A.G.O. 
Fleugzeugwerke  A.G.  at  Oschersleben,  principal  center  of  FW-190 
production  remaining  after  the  destruction  of  the  Marienburg  plant  in 
October  1943;  the  Junkers  Fleugzeug  u.  Moterenwerke  at  Halber- 
stadt,  believed  to  be  making  wings  for  the  deadly  rocket-firing  Ju-88’s; 
and  three  separate  plants  in  the  Brunswick  area  operated  by  Muhlenbau 
u.  Industrie  A.G.  These  three  plants  were  jointly  engaged  in  manufac- 
ture of  aircraft  parts  and  assembly  of  the  not  less  deadly  Me- no’s. 
In  case  the  weather  should  close  in  and  prevent  visual  bombing  it  was 
planned  to  bomb  the  city  of  Brunswick  and  surrounding  industrial  area 
by  radar.69 

Since  any  such  deep  penetration  toward  vitally  important  targets 
was  likely  to  provoke  aggressive  defensive  action,  especially  when  the 
path  led  in  a more  or  less  straight  line  to  within  some  ninety  miles 
of  Berlin,  the  bombers  badly  needed  fighter  escort.  Eleven  groups  of 
P~47’s  and  two  groups  of  P-38’s  were  allocated  in  such  a way  that  each 
of  the  three  bomber  formations  would  be  covered  from  the  Dutch 
coast  to  within  50  to  70  miles  of  the  target  and  on  the  return  trip  from 
about  100  miles  from  the  target  to  the  Dutch  coast.  Six  squadrons  of 
RAF  Spitfires  were  detailed  to  furnish  withdrawal  escort  during  the 
last  stage  of  the  route  over  enemy  territory.  Only  the  first  of  the  three 
formations  was  to  have  support  in  the  target  area,  to  be  supplied  by  the 
one  available  group  of  P-5i’s  which  alone  was  capable  of  staying  any 
appreciable  time  at  such  distance  from  base. 

As  actually  flown,  this  mission  gave  proof,  if  proof  were  needed, 
of  the  extremely  complicated  factors  involved  in  such  an  operation; 
and  it  helps  to  explain  why  more  frequent  attacks  were  not  made 


22 


WINTER  BOMBING 


against  aircraft  industry  targets  during  the  winter  months.  Although 
forecasters  had  reason  to  believe  the  target  areas  would  allow  visual 
sighting,  weather  in  the  base  areas  made  take-off  and  assembly  difficult. 
Moreover,  the  weather  along  the  route  so  deteriorated  that  the  second 
and  third  formations  (composed  respectively  of  the  B-iy’s  of  the  3d 
Bombardment  Division  and  the  B-24’s  of  the  2d  Bombardment  Di- 
vision) were  recalled.  No  signal  was  sent  to  the  B-i7’s  of  the  1st  Bom- 
bardment Division,  because,  by  the  time  the  decision  was  made  to  re- 
call, they  were  scheduled  to  be  within  fifty  miles  of  Brunswick.  The 
leading  combat  wing  of  the  second  formation  was  also  far  enough  into 
enemy  territory  when  the  signal  was  received  for  its  commander  to 
decide  to  go  on  to  the  primary  target.  The  remaining  three  combat 
wings  of  that  formation,  together  with  the  entire  third  formation, 
bombed  a number  of  targets  of  opportunity  in  western  Germany  on 
their  way  home.  As  things  finally  worked  out,  only  139  bombers 
attacked  Oschersleben,  only  52  bombed  Halberstadt,  and  only  47 
bombed  one  of  the  Brunswick  targets,  the  M.I.A.G.  plant  at  Waggum, 
some  five  miles  from  the  city.  In  all,  238  of  the  663  dispatched  bombed 
their  primary  targets.  It  proved  also  a delicate  task  to  place  the  fighter 
escort  where  it  was  needed  at  just  the  right  moment.  The  P-5 1 group 
which  was  to  provide  target  support  rendezvoused  ahead  of  schedule 
and  was  able  to  do  little  more  than  take  the  bombers  to  the  target.  This 
left  a considerable  stretch  of  time  before  the  withdrawal  support  came 
in  sight,  and  during  that  interval  the  German  fighters  did  some  of  their 
most  destructive  work. 

Possibly  fearing  that  Berlin  was  the  bombers’  destination  the  Luft- 
waffe reacted  in  force,  and  demonstrated  that  it  had  lost  none  of  its 
ability  to  make  a deep  bomber  penetration  by  daylight  a costly  enter- 
prise. Its  fighters  gave  the  Eighth  Air  Force  the  stiffest  battle  it  had  had 
since  that  October  day  of  1943  when  the  Germans  so  seriously  mauled 
a similar  force  attacking  Regensburg  and  Schweinfurt.  Indeed  it  ap- 
peared that  they  had  in  some  respects  improved  their  tactics.  Never 
before  had  they  been  able  to  stay  with  the  bomber  formations  for  such 
extended  periods.  By  using  belly  tanks  the  Germans  were  able  to  re- 
main out  of  escort  range,  following  the  bomber  formation  until  the 
escort  was  forced  to  return  to  base  or  until  only  a few  escorting  planes 
were  left.  Then,  dropping  their  tanks,  the  enemy  planes  pressed  home 
large  and  coordinated  attacks  on  the  relatively  unprotected  AAF  for- 
mations. In  instances  where  the  bomber  formation  was  as  tight  as  was 


23 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


required  for  mass  protection  against  single-engine  fighters,  the  German 
twin-engine  fighters  made  use  of  the  opportunity  to  lob  rockets  into  it 
from  a point  beyond  normal  gun  range,  often  with  deadly  effect.  If 
on  the  other  hand  the  formation  became  spread  out  enough  to  make 
rocket  attack  relatively  harmless,  its  elements  fell  prey  to  mass  attack 
by  single-engine  fighters.70 

The  first  formation,  three  combat  wings  of  which  attacked  Oschers- 
leben  while  two  attacked  Halberstadt,  bore  the  brunt  of  the  fighting. 
The  single  P-51  group  (the  354th)  split  its  force  of  forty-nine  planes 
into  two  sections  in  order  to  protect  the  bombers  at  both  targets  and 
was  therefore  able  to  provide  only  limited  protection  even  though  its 
pilots  fought  brilliantly,  claiming  fifteen  enemy  planes  destroyed  with 
no  combat  losses  to  themselves.71  As  for  the  Germans,  they  seemed  to 
both  bomber  crews  and  escort  pilots  to  comprise  the  entire  Luftwaffe. 
The  force  of  1 74  bombers  from  the  lead  formation  that  flew  to  Oschers- 
leben  lost  34  of  their  number,  the  great  majority  to  enemy  aircraft. 
Total  losses  that  day  ran  to  60  bombers.72 

But  the  fighter  factories  had  been  reached  and  seen  and  bombed;  and 
that  fact  was  enough  to  raise  the  spirits  of  the  strategic  bombing  ex- 
perts who  were  beginning  to  despair  of  getting  to  them  before  too 
late.73  Moreover,  considering  the  size  of  the  attacking  forces,  the  re- 
sults were  encouraging.  It  does  not,  after  all,  require  a very  large  force 
to  do  important  damage  to  factory  installations  if  its  bombing  is  suffi- 
ciently accurate.  One  of  the  formations  bombing  Oschersleben  was 
able  to  place  51  per  cent  of  its  bombs  within  1,000  feet  of  the  aiming 
point.  Two  of  the  groups  bombing  the  Waggum  plant  near  Brunswick 
got  respectively  7 3 and  74  per  cent  of  their  bombs  within  that  radius. 
Reconnaissance  reported  very  extensive  damage  at  both  plants.  At 
Oschersleben  several  buildings  were  hit  directly  and  others  sustained 
damage  by  either  bomb  bursts  or  fire.  At  Waggum  almost  every  major 
installation  received  a direct  hit.74 

After  1 1 January  the  weather  over  Germany  again  closed  in,  making 
even  radar  bombing  impracticable,  and  for  more  than  two  weeks  this 
situation  lasted.  Either  cloud  conditions  over  Germany  were  such  as  to 
make  formation  flying  at  high  altitudes  impossible  or  else  weather  in 
the  base  areas  made  the  launching  of  a mission  to  any  objective  what- 
ever a dangerous  operation.  It  was,  however,  possible  for  the  Eighth 
to  send  three  missions  during  that  period  against  CROSSBOW  instal- 
lations on  the  French  coast,  and  finally  on  29  January  it  sent  an  un- 

24 


WINTER  BOMBING 


precedented  force  to  Frankfurt  am  Main,  “the  Chicago  of  Germany,” 
where  over  800  aircraft  bombed  the  industrial  area  of  the  city  by  radar. 
The  day  following,  another  heavy  force  flew  to  Brunswick,  again 
bombing  through  clouds.  On  3 and  4 February  maximum  efforts  were 
made  in  pathfinder  attacks  against  Wilhelmshaven,  Emden,  and  Frank- 
furt.75 

The  scale  of  these  radar-bombing  missions  and  their  frequency  was 
impressive.  It  was  particularly  encouraging  to  General  Arnold,  who 
had  for  months  been  eager  to  step  up  both  the  rate  and  scale  of  bomb- 
ing.76 But  the  missions  still  constituted  essentially  an  attack  against 
industrial  areas.  However  damaging  they  may  have  been  to  the  total 
enemy  economy,  they  were  no  substitute  for  the  long-awaited  cam- 
paign against  the  specific  factories  in  the  German  aircraft  industry. 
Between  5 February  and  19  February  the  Eighth  ran  three  relatively 
light  pathfinder  missions  to  Frankfurt  and  Brunswick,  a couple  of  raids 
on  airfields  and  bases  in  France,  and  several  CROSSBOW  missions. 
More  frequent  pathfinder  operations  into  Germany  were  prevented 
in  part  by  the  weather,  but  also  by  a shortage  of  pathfinder  aircraft. 
The  Eighth  was  still  employing  essentially  the  same  number  of  radar- 
equipped  planes  and  radar -trained  crews  as  in  the  late  weeks  of  1943. 
Reinforcement  was  in  sight,  but  for  the  time  being  the  Eighth  was 
having  to  cut  its  operations  to  fit  the  number  of  pathfinder  planes  and 
crews  available.77 

Meanwhile  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  was  having  even  greater  diffi- 
culty than  the  Eighth  in  accomplishing  its  share  of  the  POINT- 
BLANK  offensive.  On  2 November  1943,  the  day-old  air  force  had 
made  a dramatic  debut  by  bombing  the  Messerschmitt  airframe  plants 
at  Wiener  Neustadt.*  Indeed,  it  was  the  most  devastating  of  the  many 
attacks  made  by  the  American  bombing  forces  against  this  very  im- 
portant aircraft  manufacturing  center.  Production  figures,  which  for 
the  month  of  October  showed  a total  output  of  2 18  aircraft,  fell  to  80 
for  November  and  to  30  planes  for  December.78  Ironically,  however, 
the  Fifteenth  Air  Force,  which  owed  its  origins  in  no  small  part  to  the 
hope  that  operations  from  Mediterranean  bases  would  be  free  of  the 
more  serious  handicaps  of  the  fall  and  winter  weather,  found  its  high- 
priority  strategic  targets  in  southern  Germany  and  Austria  almost  con- 
stantly shielded  by  cloud.  Weather  in  the  base  area,  which  that  fall 
was  bad  enough,  was  more  than  matched  by  the  weather  in  the  target 

* See  Vol.  II,  582-83. 


25 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


area,  and  such  were  the  shortages  of  equipment  and  trained  personnel 
that  a serious  radar-bombing  program  for  the  Fifteenth  could  not  be 
developed  until  the  spring  of  1944.79  After  the  Wiener  Neustadt  mis- 
sion of  2 November  1943,  the  energies  of  the  new  air  force  were  almost 
exclusively  absorbed  for  the  remainder  of  the  year  by  the  forward 
move  from  African  bases  to  Foggia  and  by  attacks  on  targets  of  pri- 
mary concern  to  the  Italian  ground  campaign. 

The  demands  of  that  campaign  in  January  became  even  heavier. 
Preparatory  air  attacks  for  the  Anzio  landing  began  on  2 January, 
and  the  landing  itself  took  place  on  the  2 2d.*  On  thirty- five  of  the  days 
between  1 January  and  21  February  the  Fifteenth  sent  out  missions 
ranging  in  size  from  50  to  325  bombers,  but  only  four  of  these  missions 
could  be  said  to  have  struck  targets  related  to  the  strategic  bombing 
program.  Except  for  a few  relatively  light  attacks  on  industrial  targets, 
including  the  ball-bearing  plant  at  Villa  Perosa  and  aircraft  produc- 
tion and  installations  at  Maribor  and  Klagenfurt,  most  of  the  effort  was 
expended  in  support  directly  or  indirectly  of  the  Anzio  beachhead.80 
Some  of  this  effort,  by  the  bombing  of  airfields  and  air  service  instal- 
lations in  Italy  and  even  southern  Germany,  contributed  to  the  ulti- 
mate defeat  of  the  Luftwaffe,  which  was  the  immediate  objective  of 
POINTBLANK,  but  such  attrition  could  not  be  considered  a substi- 
tute for  an  all-out  attack  on  the  sources  of  GAF  strength. 

The  February  Directive 

As  the  weeks  of  January  and  early  February  passed  without  a favor- 
able break  in  the  weather  over  central  Europe,  AAF  commanders  ex- 
perienced a growing  impatience,  for  time  was  running  out.  But  they 
awaited  the  final  test  with  confidence.  Indeed,  General  Spaatz  still 
privately  regarded  POINTBLANK  not  merely  as  a prerequisite  to 
OVERLORD  but  as  a perfectly  feasible  alternative  to  it,  and  regretted 
the  decision  of  the  Combined  Chiefs  to  risk  a huge  invasion  when  there 
existed  a possibility  of  eventually  bombing  Germany  out  of  the  war.81 
RAF  Bomber  Command  for  some  time  had  been  operating  at  effec- 
tive strength,  and  both  the  Eighth  and  the  Fifteenth  Air  Forces  were 
rapidly,  if  somewhat  belatedly,  reaching  the  strength  envisioned  by  the 
CBO  planners.^82  Equally  significant  for  AAF  forces  was  the  fact  that 

* See  below,  pp.  336  ff. 

t As  of  19  February  the  Eighth  Air  Force  had  19!  groups  of  operational  B-iy’s, 
83  groups  of  B-24’s,  8 groups  of  P-47’s,  2 of  P-38’s,  and  2 of  P-ji’s.  The  Fifteenth  had 
8 groups  of  B-24’s,  4 of  B-iy’s,  3 of  P-38’s,  and  1 of  P-47’s. 

2 6 


WINTER  BOMBING 


most  of  the  experimentation  in  the  tactics  and  techniques  of  daylight 
strategic  bombing  already  had  been  accomplished,  though  there  would 
be  a continuing  need  for  experimental  effort  in  adapting  the  lessons  of 
experience  to  the  constantly  changing  circumstances  of  the  air  war. 

The  early  weeks  of  1944  brought  also  agreement  between  the  Allied 
staffs  as  to  CBO  objectives  and  procedures  that  had  been  under  debate 
since  the  preceding  fall.  At  that  time  AAF  leaders,  prompted  by  a sense 
of  the  short  time  remaining  before  OVERLORD  and  by  the  growing 
challenge  of  the  GAF,  had  sought  revision  of  the  basic  CBO  Plan  to 
bring  it  more  closely  into  accord  with  the  realities  of  the  current  situ- 
ation and  had  argued  for  the  need  of  a new  directive  that  would  effect 
a closer  coordination  of  the  RAF  and  AAF  bombing  efforts.*  The  de- 
bate, extending  through  most  of  the  winter,  reveals  a sharper  differ- 
ence between  the  British  and  the  Americans  over  procedures  than  over 
the  question  of  general  objectives. 

The  British  agreed  that  for  the  time  being  the  CBO  must  be  directed 
chiefly  toward  destruction  of  the  Luftwaffe,  but  they  maintained  that 
adequate  machinery  already  existed  for  revising  the  list  of  target  pri- 
orities as  the  strategic  or  tactical  situations  might  require.  Similarly, 
machinery  for  coordinating  day  and  night  attacks  existed  in  the  Air 
Ministry.  Detailed  coordination,  it  was  claimed,  could  rarely  be 
achieved  because  of  the  variability  of  weather  conditions  and  the 
lengthy  preparations  needed  before  large  bomber  forces  could  be 
launched  on  an  operation.  Target  priority  lists  were  kept  under  con- 
stant review,  and  the  targets  assigned  to  U.S.  and  British  forces  were 
those  “most  suitable  to  their  tactical  ability  and  geographical  loca- 
tion.”83 Despite  these  protestations  that  both  Allied  forces  were  being 
used  as  fully  as  weather  and  the  tactical  situation  would  allow  against 
the  proper  targets,  American  planners  continued  to  express  skepticism. 
In  a CCS  meeting  of  21  January  1944,  for  example,  General  Marshall 
countered  the  British  argument  with  evidence  that  only  20  per  cent 
of  the  Allied  bomb  tonnage  had  been  expended  on  the  vitally  important 
German  fighter  targets.84 

The  debate  ended  on  13  February  1944  in  the  issuance  of  a new 
directive,85  which  defined  the  CBO  objective  as  follows: 

The  progressive  destruction  and  dislocation  of  the  German  military,  in- 
dustrial and  economic  systems,  the  disruption  of  vital  elements  of  lines  of 
communication  and  the  material  reduction  of  German  air  combat  strength,  by 
the  successful  prosecution  of  the  combined  bomber  offensive  from  all  con- 
venient bases. 

* See  Vol.  II,  721-28. 

27 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


German  single-  and  twin-fighter  airframe  and  component  production 
was  bracketed  with  the  Axis-controlled  ball-bearing  production  in 
first  priority.  Second  priority  went  to  installations  supporting  the  Ger- 
man fighter  force.  Other  targets,  listed  in  the  order  of  their  priority, 
were  (i)  CROSSBOW  targets,  which  were  to  be  attacked  by  all 
means  available  over  and  above  those  required  for  operations  of  top 
priority  against  the  GAF;  (2)  Berlin  and  other  industrial  areas,  to  be 
attacked  by  RAF  Bomber  Command  and  USSTAF  (the  latter  using 
blind-bombing  devices  when  necessary)  whenever  weather  or  tactical 
conditions  proved  suitable  for  such  activities  but  not  for  operations 
against  the  primary  objective;  and  (3)  targets  in  southeast  Europe— 
cities,  transportation,  and  other  suitable  objectives  in  the  Balkans  and 
in  satellite  countries— to  be  attacked  by  the  Mediterranean  Allied  Air 
Forces  whenever  weather  or  tactical  conditions  prevented  operations 
against  POINTBLANK  objectives  or  in  support  of  land  operations 
in  Italy.  “Mutually  supporting  attacks”  by  the  strategic  air  forces  of 
both  nations  “pursued  with  relentless  determination  against  the  same 
target  areas  or  systems,  so  far  as  tactical  conditions  allow”  was  the 
stated  concept  that  should  guide  the  combined  operations.  Over-all 
control  of  CBO  operations  remained  in  the  hands  of  the  chief  of  air 
staff,  RAF,  as  agent  for  the  CCS;  and  USSTAF  would  continue  to 
coordinate  the  operations  of  the  Eighth  and  Fifteenth  Air  Forces.  The 
commander  of  the  AEAF  was  ordered  to  devote  as  much  of  his  tactical 
air  force  strength  as  could  be  spared  from  necessary  preparations  for 
OVERLORD  to  the  execution  of  this  directive. 

One  would  hardly  be  justified  in  regarding  the  new  directive  as  an 
unqualified  victory  for  the  American  point  of  view.  There  was  reason 
now  to  believe  that  a larger  share  of  the  RAF’s  night  bombing  effort 
would  be  devoted  to  the  small  industrial  centers  intimately  connected 
with  the  aircraft  and  ball-bearing  industries,  even  at  the  risk  of  greater 
loss  to  enemy  fighters  and  at  the  expense  of  the  RAF’s  program  of 
bombing  the  large  city  areas.86  Little  if  any  real  change  had  been  made 
in  the  machinery  of  coordination,  however,  and  while  the  RAF  had 
conceded  a heavier  claim  against  its  resources  for  attacks  on  the  GAF, 
the  AAF  would  know  some  concern  over  the  fact  that  CROSSBOW 
operations  had  been  given  so  high  a priority.  During  January  and 
February  thirteen  out  of  twenty-nine  missions  undertaken  by  the 
Eighth  Air  Force  were  flown  in  support  of  CROSSBOW,  and  there- 
after the  proportion  would  increase.87 

28 


WINTER  BOMBING 


Claims  for  support  of  the  land  campaign  in  Italy  also  continued  to 
be  a subject  of  concern  to  AAF  leaders.  At  the  establishment  of 
USSTAF  in  January  it  had  been  stipulated  that,  though  POINT- 
BLANK  retained  first  priority  for  all  heavy  bomber  operations,  the 
theater  commanders  at  their  own  discretion  could  use  the  heavies 
within  their  respective  theaters  to  meet  a strategic  or  tactical  emergen- 
cy, provided  they  kept  the  commanding  general  of  USSTAF  in- 
formed as  to  their  action.88  Up  to  the  close  of  February  this  problem 
of  “diversion”  had  been  handled  in  Italy  by  personal  arrangements 
between  Eaker  and  Gen,  Sir  Henry  M.  Wilson,89  with  the  result  that 
the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  devoted  much  of  its  effort  to  assistance  of  the 
ground  campaign  and  yet  was  available  for  use  ,by  USSTAF  in  co- 
ordinated attacks  on  the  GAF  when  a favorable  stretch  of  weather 
finally  came  during  the  third  week  in  February.*  But  on  27  February 
the  Combined  Chiefs  directed  that  until  further  notice  the  campaign 
in  Italyt  must  have  priority  over  all  operations  and  first  call  on  all 
Allied  resources  in  the  Mediterranean— land,  sea,  and  air.90  Arnold  and 
Spaatz  were  alarmed  lest  this  result  in  a permanent  diversion  of  heavy 
bomber  strength  in  support  of  what  they  felt  had  become  a dead- 
locked campaign  until  they  received  assurance  that  Wilson  would  use 
his  new  prerogative  only  for  the  duration  of  the  current  emergency.91 

* See  below,  pp.  358-60. 

t Developments  there  are  discussed  below,  pp.  346-61. 


CHAPTER  2 


BIG  WEEK 

AT  LONG  last,  on  19  February  1944,  the  weather  over  the  Ger- 
/\  man  fighter  factories  began  to  open  up,  and  during  the  six 
succeeding  days  the  concerted  bombing  attack  which  had 
been  projected  since  November  1943  became  a reality.  The  plan, 
drafted  originally  and  repeatedly  modified  by  the  Combined  Opera- 
tional Planning  Committee  (COPC)  under  the  code  name  ARGU- 
MENT,1 pointed  toward  a series  of  coordinated  precision  attacks  by 
the  Eighth  and  Fifteenth  Air  Forces  against  the  highest-priority  objec- 
tives, most  of  which  by  February  1944  were  situated  in  central  and 
southern  Germany.  The  RAF  agreed  to  make  its  night  area  attacks 
coincide  with  the  daylight  missions  both  in  time  and  in  place. 

The  projected  operation  was  to  be  directed  principally  against  the 
airframe  and  final  assembly  phase  of  single-  and  twin-engine  produc- 
tion. It  had  been  consistently  assumed  by  those  responsible  for  select- 
ing targets  for  the  CBO  that  bombing  of  airframe  manufacture  would 
be  reflected  more  rapidly  in  enemy  front-line  fighter  strength  than  an 
attack  on  the  aeroengine  manufacture.  The  policy  based  on  this  as- 
sumption, however,  was  coupled  with  one  giving  a high  immediate 
priority  to  the  antifriction-bearing  industry  which  lay,  one  might  say, 
at  the  opposite  end  of  the  production  line  but  which  was  believed  to 
be  highly  concentrated  in  so  small  a number  of  targets  as  to  make  the 
system  highly  vulnerable.*  As  finally  worked  out,  the  ARGUMENT 
plan  looked  to  a combination  of  attacks  against  final  assembly,  anti- 
friction bearings,  and  component  parts  manufacture.  Thus,  for  exam- 
ple, bombing  of  the  Erla  assembly  plant  at  Leipzig-Mockau,  engaged 
in  assembling  Me-io9’s,  was  to  be  supplemented  by  bombing  the 
Heiterblick  component  factory  at  Leipzig  which  supplied  major  parts 
* See  Vol.  II,  356-57. 


30 


BIG  WE  E K 


for  assembly  at  the  airfield.  Ju-88  twin-engine  fighter  production  at. 
Bcrnburg  was  made  to  share  the  bombing  attack  with  the  fuselage  fac- 
tory at  Oschersleben  and  the  wing  factory  at  Halberstadt,  on  both  of 
which  it  depended.  Likewise,  the  Messerschmitt  assembly  plant  at 
Regensburg-Obertraubling  was  to  be  bombed  simultaneously  with 
the  component  factory  at  Regensburg-Priifening.  This  technique  was, 
of  course,  unnecessary  at  the  Messerschmitt  factories  at  Gotha  and 
Augsburg  where  both  final  assembly  and  major  component  manufac- 
ture were  carried  out  in  the  same  factory  area.2 

The  primary  responsibility  for  mounting  the  attack  belonged  to 
USSTAF.  It  had  not  been  anticipated  that  this  headquarters  would 
ordinarily  direct  daily  operations  involving  either  or  both  of  the  two 
AAF  heavy  bombardment  forces,  the  Eighth  and  Fifteenth.  Its  gen- 
eral task  was  a supervisory  and  policy-making  one,  but  in  the  case  of 
coordinated  operations  undertaken  by  the  two  forces  the  day’s  activ- 
ity was  to  fall  under  the  immediate  direction  of  USSTAF’s  deputy  for 
operations,  Maj.  Gen.  Frederick  L.  Anderson.3  ARGUMENT  had 
been  scheduled  repeatedly— every  time,  in  fact,  that  early  weather 
reports  seemed  to  offer  any  hope;  but  each  time  deteriorating  weather 
had  forced  cancellation.4  By  February  the  destruction  of  the  German 
fighter  production  had  become  a matter  of  such  urgency  that  Gen- 
eral Spaatz  and  General  Anderson  were  willing  to  take  more  than 
ordinary  risks  in  order  to  complete  the  task,  including  the  risk  of  ex- 
ceptional losses  that  might  result  from  missions  staged  under  condi- 
tions of  adverse  base  weather.  General  Spaatz  on  8 February  had  di- 
rected that  ARGUMENT  must  be  completed  by  i March  1944.5 

ARGUMENT 

On  19  February  the  USSTAF  weather  section,  the  central  agency 
through  which  all  forecasting  was  coordinated  for  the  American 
bomber  and  fighter  forces  in  the  United  Kingdom,  became  aware  of 
two  extensive  pressure  areas,  one  centered  in  the  Baltic  and  one  just 
west  of  Ireland,  which  were  developing  in  a way  that  made  good 
weather  over  central  Europe  and  the  home  bases  seem  probable.  If  the 
pressure  area  over  the  Baltic  moved  southeast  across  Europe  as  was 
anticipated,  the  resulting  winds  would  break  out  the  cloud  and  leave 
clear  skies  or,  at  worst,  scattered  clouds.  Neither  the  Eighth  Air  Force 
nor  Ninth  Air  Force  weather  observers  shared  the  confidence  of 
USSTAF  on  this  prospect.  As  a result,  neither  General  Doolittle  of 


3i 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

the  Eighth  nor  General  Brereton,  whose  Ninth  Air  Force  medium 
bombers  would  be  heavily  involved  as  diversionary  forces,  was  en- 
thusiastic about  Anderson’s  proposal  to  attempt  as  difficult  and  dan- 
gerous an  operation  as  ARGUMENT  the  following  day.6 

Nevertheless,  General  Anderson  continued  to  explore  the  possibili- 
ties and  conferred  by  cable  with  Eaker  to  determine  whether  Map 
Gen.  Nathan  F.  Twining  of  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  was  prepared  to 
cooperate.  The  request  caught  Eaker  at  an  embarrassing  time.  He  had 
been  assured  by  those  in  command  of  the  ground  campaign  at  Anzio 
that  the  following  day  would  be  a critical  one  on  the  beachhead.  Both 
Lt.  Gen.  Mark  W.  Clark  of  the  Fifth  Army  and  Map  Gen.  John  K. 
Cannon  of  the  Twelfth  Air  Force  hoped  for  full  assistance  from  the 
heavy  bombers  of  the  Fifteenth.  Weather  reports  received  in  Italy 
indicated,  furthermore,  that  the  proposed  south  German  targets  would 
offer  little  chance  for  visual  bombing;  and  since  the  Fifteenth  had  as 
yet  no  H2X  equipment,  a diversionary  attack  on  area  targets  as  sug- 
gested by  USSTAF  would  be  impossible.  Eaker  also  feared  that  if 
the  Fifteenth  were  withdrawn  for  POINTBLANK  operations  at  this 
critical  stage  of  the  Italian  campaign  General  Wilson  might  feel  com- 
pelled to  declare  an  emergency  and  employ  the  heavy  bombers  by 
direct  command.  Eaker  wished  to  avoid  such  a declaration,  lest  the 
control  exercised  by  his  own  headquarters  over  the  operations  of  the 
Fifteenth  be  robbed  of  all  flexibility.  Accordingly  he  requested  that 
the  Fifteenth  not  be  committed  by  USSTAF  on  the  20th.7  Spaatz,  to 
whom  the  impending  air  battle  promised  results  so  decisive  that  any 
diversion  of  support  from  the  land  campaign  in  Italy  would  be  justi- 
fied, took  the  question  to  Air  Chief  Marshal  Portal,  who  answered 
that  the  Prime  Minister  wished  all  available  forces  to  be  used  in  sup- 
port of  the  beachhead.8  Participation  by  the  Fifteenth  on  the  20th  was 
accordingly  left  to  Eaker’s  discretion.9 

The  mission  remained  on  the  books,  at  least  for  the  Eighth,  and  prep- 
arations went  ahead  on  the  assumption  that  it  would  be  flown  the 
next  morning.  During  a night  that  brought  little  sleep  for  the  respon- 
sible commanders,  doubts  continued  to  be  expressed  concerning  the 
weather  prospect.  Could  the  fighter  escorts  get  up  through  the  clouds 
considered  likely  over  the  bases?  Might  not  the  icing  that  would  result 
seriously  reduce  their  efficiency?  General  Kepner,  in  command  of  the 
Eighth  Air  Force  fighters,  believed  it  would  cut  the  efficiency  of  the 
P~38’s  by  half  but  did  not  foresee  too  much  difficulty  for  the  P-47’s 


32 


BIG  WEE  lv 


and  P-5i’s.  General  Spaatz  felt  the  mission  should  be  flown  if  neces- 
sary without  full  fighter  support.  But  what  of  the  bombers  them- 
selves? Could  they  negotiate  assembly  through  4,000  to  5,000  feet  of 
cloud  with  the  likelihood  of  even  more  trouble  from  icing  than  the 
fast-moving  fighters  would  encounter?  It  was  suggested  that  de-icing 
fluid  could  be  used  and  cockpit  windows  opened  after  the  cloud  area 
was  passed,  and  so  the  debate  continued,  but  early  in  the  morning  of 
the  20th  the  wires  carried  down  from  headquarters  the  final  decision— 
“Let  ’em  go.”10 

The  force  assembled  for  the  mission  was  the  largest  in  the  history 
of  the  American  strategic  forces.  Sixteen  combat  wings  of  heavy 
bombers,  numbering  over  1,000  planes,  were  dispatched,  of  which 
total  941  were  credited  with  sorties.  All  available  AAF  fighter  escort 
was  provided,  17  groups  in  all— 13  P-47,  2 P-38,  and  2 P-51— drawn 
from  both  VIII  Fighter  Command  and  the  Ninth  Air  Force.  In  addi- 
tion to  these  American  escort  groups,  the  RAF  provided  16  fighter 
squadrons,  consisting  of  Spitfires  and  Mustangs.11 

Twelve  specific  targets  had  been  selected,  representing  major  as- 
sembly and  component  plants  for  Me-iop’s,  Me-no’s,  Ju-88’s,  Ju- 
188’s,  and  FW-ipo’s.  Most  of  the  objectives  lay  in  the  Brunswick- 
Leipzig  area;  but  three  lay  in  the  north,  two  in  the  Posen  area  of 
Poland  and  one  at  Tutow.  Six  combat  wings  of  bombers  were  sent  to 
the  latter  targets  by  a route  which  led  over  the  North  Sea  and  across 
the  southern  part  of  Denmark.  The  remaining  ten  combat  wings  were 
to  bomb  the  targets  in  central  Germany.  Since  these  wings  would  cer- 
tainly encounter  the  stiff est  resistance  from  the  Luftwaffe  (the  north- 
ern route  lay  largely  beyond  the  lanes  usually  defended  by  the  Ger- 
mans), they  were  given  all  the  available  escort.  Several  of  the  Ameri- 
can fighter  groups  were  to  refuel  and  make  second  sorties.  The  main 
bombing  force  was  to  enter  the  enemy  radar  screen  in  time  to  prevent 
large  numbers  of  fighters  from  concentrating  on  the  unescorted  north- 
ern force.  In  order  to  facilitate  fighter  support,  the  combat  wings  of 
the  main  force  were  to  fly  at  close  intervals  over  the  same  route  until 
it  became  necessary  to  diverge  toward  their  respective  targets.  Both 
parts  of  the  day’s  mission  could  easily  be  interpreted,  and  probably 
were  by  many  German  observers,  as  a threat  to  the  national  capital.12 

Thanks  to  these  precautions,  to  the  generally  excellent  support  of 
friendly  fighters,  and  doubtless  also  to  the  fact  that  the  RAF  had 
bombed  the  city  of  Leipzig  heavily  the  night  before  and  had  worn  out 


33 


THE  ARA1V  AIR  FORCES  IX  WORLD  WAR  II 

much  of  the  night  fighter  force,  the  bombers  of  the  Eighth  suffered 
relatively  little  from  enemy  attack.  This  was  good  news  to  those  who 
remembered  earlier  attempts  at  penetrations  deep  into  enemy  terri- 
tory—the  Schweinfurt  mission  of  14  October  or  the  most  recent  of 
such  operations  on  11  January  when  of  651  bombers  making  sorties 
60  failed  to  return.  On  20  February,  against  many  of  the  same  targets, 
only  21  were  lost  out  of  a force  of  almost  1,000. 13 

The  bombing,  wherever  it  was  accomplished  visually  (at  Leipzig, 
Bemburg,  and  Brunswick  and  at  several  targets  of  opportunity),  was 
good.  Severe  damage  was,  for  example,  done  to  four  plants  of  A.T.G. 
Maschinenbau  GmbH,  in  the  Leipzig  area.  A.T.G.  was  one  of  the  li- 
censees of  Junkers  and  was  engaged  in  airframe  manufacture  and  as- 


34 


BIG  WEEK 


senibly,  especially  of  the  twin-engine  Ju-88.  Destruction  was  espe- 
cially heavy  in  terms  of  structural  damage.  Machine  tools,  although 
not  damaged  quite  so  severely  as  Allied  intelligence  believed  at  the 
time,  were  badly  mauled.  The  mission  of  20  February  caused  a loss  of 
slightly  more  than  one  month’s  output  for  the  entire  concern.14  The 
Erla  Maschinenwerke  GmbH  also  suffered  heavily,  especially  its  main 
plant  at  Heiterblick  and  the  assembly  plant  at  Mockau  being  used  for 
the  manufacture  of  Me-ioq’s,  a type  of  which  the  Erla  complex  as  a 
whole  produced  32  per  cent.  An  estimated  forty  completed  aircraft 
and  an  undetermined  amount  of  component  parts  were  destroyed  at 
these  two  plants.  The  bombs  also  killed  some  450  workers  in  slit 
trenches  and  in  inadequate  air-raid  shelters  provided  at  Heiterblick. 
As  at  A.T.G.,  damage  to  buildings  was  proportionally  greater  than  to 
machine  tools,  a surprising  number  of  which  remained  undamaged  or 
reparable.  It  was  this  raid,  however,  that  decided  the  plant  authorities 
to  begin  a serious  policy  of  dispersal,  with  all  its  attendant  loss  of  pro- 
duction and  dependence  on  vulnerable  lines  of  rail  communication.15 

This  mission  of  20  February  was  the  beginning  of  the  dramatic 
series  of  strategic  operations  that  has  come  to  be  called  the  Big  Week. 
On  the  night  of  19/20  February  it  all  seemed  a hazardous  gamble  on 
the  doubtful  long-range  weather  forecast.  That  the  first  mission  was 
attempted  can  be  attributed  to  the  stubborn  refusal  of  General  Ander- 
son to  allow  an  opportunity,  even  a dubious  one,  to  slip  past  him. 
To  the  intense  relief  of  USSTAF  headquarters  the  gamble  paid  off. 
Not  only  had  an  apparently  good  job  of  bombing  been  achieved  but 
the  cost  must  have  seemed  gratifyingly  small  to  men  who  had  been 
talking  in  terms  of  a possible  loss  of  200  bombers  and  crews.  So,  when 
the  weather  prospect  for  the  21st  indicated  continuing  favorable  con- 
ditions over  Germany,  an  operation  was  enthusiastically  undertaken. 
The  feeling  was  spreading  within  USSTAF  headquarters,  and  from 
there  to  the  operational  headquarters,  that  this  was  the  big  chance. 

As  on  the  previous  day  it  was  the  RAF  that  dealt  the  initial  blow. 
On  the  night  of  20/21  February,  Air  Chief  Marshal  Sir  Arthur  Har- 
ris’ Bomber  Command  struck  at  Stuttgart,  a city  important  to  the  air- 
craft industry,  with  over  600  planes.  USSTAF  planned  to  bomb  the 
two  M.I.A.G.  factories  at  Brunswick,  both  of  which  were  producing 
component  parts  for  the  twin-engine,  rocket-firing  Me- no,  and  also 
to  attack  half-a-dozen  important  airfields  and  storage  parks  in  western 
Germany.16  It  was  hoped  that  the  medium  bombers  of  the  Ninth  Air 


35 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


Force  and  the  heavies  of  the  Fifteenth  could  cooperate.  But  the  for- 
mer, as  on  the  20th,  found  weather  over  assigned  airfield  targets  in  the 
Low  Countries  unfavorable,  and  the  Fifteenth  found  it  impossible  be- 
cause of  bad  weather  even  to  fly  missions  in  support  of  the  ground 
action.17  On  the  part  of  the  Eighth  it  was  another  all-out  effort, 
planned  and  launched  on  a scale  not  far  short  of  the  previous  mission. 
But  the  strategic  results  were  not  so  encouraging.  True,  the  large  air 
park  at  Diepholz  was  severely  and  accurately  bombed,  as  were  several 
of  the  other  airfields  attacked,  but  the  principal  targets  at  Brunswick 
were  found  covered  by  cloud.  The  bombardiers  switched  from  visual 
to  pathfinder  tactics  and  succeeded  in  dropping  a heavy  tonnage  of 
bombs  on  the  city,  but  without  damaging  the  aircraft  factories  di- 
rectly.18 

Weather  reports  for  the  next  day  continued  to  indicate  good  pros- 
pects for  visual  bombing  over  many  important  targets,  and  special  at- 
tention was  invited  to  evidence  that  the  high-pressure  area  responsible 
for  the  clear  weather  was  moving  south  in  such  a way  as  to  open  up 
the  two  top-priority  objectives— Regensburg  and  Schweinfurt.  A 
promise  of  good  weather  farther  north  also  encouraged  the  planners 
to  debate  seriously  an  attack  on  the  next  highest  on  the  priority  list, 
the  Erkner  ball-bearing  factory  near  Berlin.  A mission  to  Erkner  un- 
dertaken simultaneously  with  attacks  on  the  southern  targets,  how- 
ever, would  spread  the  forces  too  much  and  make  them  too  vulner- 
able to  enemy  attack.  Excellent  results  had  been  achieved  on  the  two 
previous  missions  by  sending  the  bombers  and  their  fighter  escort  into 
enemy  territory  as  a team,  only  splitting  the  force  when  the  target 
areas  were  neared.  Even  after  Erkner  had  been  ruled  out,  the  remain- 
ing targets  presented  a dangerous  spread,  and  so  the  news  that  the 
Fifteenth  would  be  able  to  send  a force  against  Regensburg  was  espe- 
cially welcome.  It  was  decided  that  on  the  2 2d  the  Eighth  should 
attack  aircraft  factories  at  Schweinfurt,  Gotha,  Bernburg,  Oschers- 
leben,  Aschersleben,  and  Halberstadt,  leaving  Regensburg  to  be 
bombed  from  Italy  by  the  Fifteenth.  In  addition,  a small  diversionary 
force,  equipped  with  radar- jamming  devices,  was  to  fly  to  Denmark 
and  bomb  the  Aalborg  airfield.  This  force,  it  was  hoped,  would  hold 
a number  of  enemy  fighters  in  the  north  and  would  make  it  hard  for 
the  enemy  to  detect  the  main  force  of  bombers  until  after  it  had 
formed  over  England.19 

A number  of  things  went  wrong  with  these  plans.  The  B-iy’s  of 

36 


BIG  WEEK 


the  3d  Bombardment  Division,  which  constituted  the  Schweinfurt 
force,  found  it  impossible  to  assemble  because  of  the  unfavorable 
weather  over  their  bases.  Several  collisions  occurred  in  the  air,  and 
General  LeMay  finally  ordered  this  part  of  the  mission  abandoned. 
His  decision,  though  apparently  justified  under  the  circumstances, 
left  the  Fifteenth  to  face  stronger  defenses  than  would  have  been  met 
had  the  bombers  of  the  Eighth  been  able  to  get  as  far  south  as 
Schweinfurt.  The  B-24’s  of  the  2d  Bombardment  Division  on  their 
way  to  Gotha  also  ran  into  trouble.  Badly  strung  out  as  they  crossed 
the  Channel,  they  found  it  impossible  to  organize  on  the  way  inland 
and  the  decision  was  made  to  recall.  These  defections  left  only  the  five 
combat  wings  of  the  1st  Division  which  had  been  scheduled  to  attack 
Oschersleben,  Halberstadt,  Bernburg,  and  Aschersleben.  Oschers- 
leben,  most  important  of  these  objectives,  was  obscured  by  cloud  and 
was  passed  over  in  favor  of  targets  of  opportunity.  Many  planes  of 
the  Halberstadt  force  found  the  same  difficulty  and  adopted  the  same 
alternative.  As  a result,  only  99  bombers  out  of  a force  of  466  dis- 
patched by  the  Eighth  that  morning  succeeded  in  bombing  their  pri- 
mary targets,  and  only  255  planes  bombed  any  target  at  all.  Fortunate- 
ly, the  Fifteenth  had  better  luck  and  was  able  to  get  off  a force  of  183 
bombers  against  Regensburg,  where  1 1 8 planes  bombed  the  Messer- 
schmitt  factory  at  Obertraubling.20 

Bombing  results  at  the  major  targets  were  very  uneven,  owing 
principally  to  the  degree  of  visibility  allowed  the  bombardiers.  The 
thirty-four  bombers  that  attacked  the  Aschersleben  Motor  Works 
(manufacturing  Ju-88’s  and  other  products  for  the  Junkers  complex) 
are  credited  with  causing  a 50  per  cent  production  loss  for  two 
months.  The  Bernburg  attack,  aimed  also  at  Ju-88  production,  was  one 
of  several  effective  missions  which  eventually  damaged  the  assembly 
buildings  to  the  extent  of  70  to  80  per  cent.  Bombing  was  poor  at 
Halberstadt.  The  Fifteenth  at  Regensburg  gave  a good  start  to  a 
second  campaign  against  that  segment  of  the  Messerschmitt  system,  a 
campaign  which  was  carried  on  still  more  effectively  three  days  later 
by  both  air  forces.21 

The  German  fighters  made  the  bombers  of  both  the  Eighth  and 
the  Fifteenth  pay  more  heavily  on  the  2 2d  than  on  the  two  preceding 
missions.  On  those  two  occasions  the  bombers,  with  excellent  fighter 
support  and  other  factors  in  their  favor,  had  a relatively  easy  time  of 
it,  but  on  this  day  the  Germans  successfully  tried  a new  tactic  against 


37 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


the  Eighth  Air  Force.  Instead  of  concentrating  their  efforts  in  the 
target  area,  where  fighter  escort  was  now  usually  provided,  or  even  on 
the  later  stages  of  the  flight  toward  the  target,  they  attacked  early  in 
the  penetration  at  a time  when  fighter  cover  was  either  thin  or  entirely 
lacking.  In  the  course  of  the  running  battle  that  ensued  the  Eighth  lost 
41  bombers  out  of  a force  of  430  credited  with  making  sorties.  Part  of 
the  trouble  arose  from  a widely  spread-out  bomber  force;  when  many 
of  the  units  turned  away  to  seek  targets  of  opportunity,  the  invading 
force  lost  what  compactness  it  had  maintained  on  the  penetration 
flight  and  this  made  it  hard  for  the  two  groups  of  long-range  P-5 1 ’s 
acting  as  target  area  support  to  afford  complete  cover.  The  escort  in 
general  had  a field  day,  claiming  sixty  of  the  enemy  destroyed  at  a 
cost  of  eleven  of  their  number.22  The  Fifteenth,  also  running  into  stiff 
enemy  opposition,  lost  fourteen  of  its  bombers,  chiefly  to  twin-engine 
fighters.23 

Prospects  for  a visual  attack  by  the  Eighth  on  the  23d  looked  so 
poor  that  no  mission  was  planned.  General  Doolittle  welcomed  the 
break  in  operations.  For  three  successive  days  his  bomber  crews  had 
been  working  under  high  pressure  and  they  were  tired.  The  long- 
range  fighter  escort  units  were  even  more  exhausted,  but  presumably 
the  German  Air  Force  was  tired  too,  and  had  weather  promised  an 
even  chance  for  visual  bombing,  a mission  would  doubtless  have  been 
flown.24  The  Fifteenth  was  able  to  send  a small  force  of  102  bombers 
to  Steyr,  in  Austria,  where  they  destroyed  20  per  cent  of  the  plant 
area  at  the  Steyr  Walzlagerwerke,  then  turning  out  between  10  and 
15  per  cent  of  the  German  ball-bearing  production.25 

The  weather  over  central  Germany  opened  up  again  in  time  for 
another  full-scale  coordinated  mission  on  the  24th.  This  time  it  was 
decided  to  strike  hard  at  Schweinfurt’s  antifriction-bearing  plants, 
most  important  of  their  sort  in  the  Axis  countries.  In  addition  to  the 
five  combat  wings  of  B-iy’s  dispatched  to  Schweinfurt,  three  combat 
wings  of  B-24’s  were  sent  to  Gotha  to  bomb  the  important  Gothaer 
Waggonfabrik  A.G.,  largest  producer  of  twin-engine  Me-i  10’s,  and  a 
third  force,  amounting  to  five  combat  wings,  was  to  bomb  aircraft 
component  factories  and  assembly  plants  in  northeastern  Germany 
and  Poland  at  Tutow,  Kreising,  and  Posen,  all  producing  FW-ipo’s. 
Since  it  was  not  at  all  certain  that  these  northern  targets  would  be 
open  to  visual  bombing,  and  since  the  position  of  the  last  two  in  occu- 
pied territory  made  them  unsuitable  for  the  relatively  inaccurate  radar 

38 


BIG  WEEK 


bombing,  the  third  force  was  directed  as  an  alternative  to  bomb  the  city 
of  Rostock.  The  Fifteenth  Air  Force  agreed  to  fly  in  force  against  the 
Steyr-Daimler-Puch  aircraft  component  plant  at  Steyr.26 

Gare  had  to  be  taken  to  prevent  heavy  enemy  fighter  reaction  to 
the  northern  force  dispatched  by  the  Eighth,  since  the  extreme  length 
of  its  flight  prevented  the  use  of  even  the  long-range  fighter  escort 
then  available.  It  was  hoped  that  by  carefully  timing  the  flight  of  the 
main  force  the  enemy  controller  could  be  prevented  from  committing 
too  many  units  to  the  task  of  intercepting  the  Tutow-Kreising-Posen 
force.  The  actions  of  the  Fifteenth  against  Steyr  and  of  the  main  force 
of  the  Eighth  were  calculated  to  be  mutually  helpful  in  splitting  the 
German  defenses. 

These  precautions  apparently  worked  well  for  the  northern  force, 
although  the  overcast  weather  encountered  no  doubt  helped  to  dis- 
courage enemy  fighters.  The  Schweinfurt-Gotha  forces  and  that  of 
the  Fifteenth,  however,  ran  into  plenty  of  trouble.  The  87  B-i7’s  of 
the  Fifteenth  that  flew  to  Steyr  (27  others  became  separated  and  at- 
tacked the  Fiume  oil  refinery)  experienced  almost  all  the  German 
intercepter  tricks  that  had  been  worked  out  against  the  Eighth  during 
the  previous  year— coordinated  attacks  by  four  to  six  single-engine 
fighters,  rockets  fired  at  long  range  from  twin-engine  aircraft,  and 
aerial  bombs.  The  attacks  were  especially  heavy  against  the  rear  for- 
mation, all  10  bombers  of  which  were  shot  down.  The  Steyr  force 
lost  a total  of  1 7 bombers  in  this  air  battle,  despite  excellent  withdraw- 
al support  provided  by  146  P-47’s  and  P-38’s.  A similar  story  was  told 
by  the  B-24  crews  that  flew  to  Gotha.  Despite  almost  continuous 
fighter  cover,  the  B-24  formations  suffered  persistent  and  concentrated 
attack,  especially  in  the  target  area,  and  lost  33  planes  out  of  the  239 
dispatched  that  morning.  The  Schweinfurt  force  fared  somewhat  bet- 
ter, losing  only  1 1 planes.  The  supporting  fighters  lost  1 o and  claimed 
the  destruction  of  37  of  the  enemy.  Bomber  claims  (108  German 
fighters  destroyed)  reflected  the  intensity  of  the  battle.27 

It  is  hard  to  estimate  the  exact  amount  of  damage  done  to  the 
Schweinfurt  ball-bearing  industry  by  the  574.3  tons  of  high  explosives 
and  incendiaries  dropped  by  the  238  B-i7’s  on  24  February  because 
that  night  the  RAF,  guided  by  the  fires  left  burning  from  the  Ameri- 
can attack,  dropped  a much  greater  weight  of  bombs  on  the  entire  in- 
dustrial area  of  Schweinfurt.  The  combined  attack  was  thus  the  heav- 
iest yet  directed  against  that  city,  but  it  was  not  the  most  damaging  to 


39 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

the  antifriction-bearing  industry.  The  attack  of  14  October  retained 
that  honor  throughout  the  war.  It  was  not  that  the  bombing  of  24 
February  was  inaccurate,  for  three  of  the  four  bearing  plants  sus- 
tained major  damage  in  the  daylight  raid  with  direct  hits  on  machine 
shops,  storage  buildings,  and  power  stations.  It  was  simply  that 
Schweinfurt,  considered  as  a POINTBLANK  objective,  was  not  the 
target  it  had  been  in  the  fall  of  1943.  Since  the  October  raid,  Vereinig- 
te  Kugellager  Fabriken  A.G.  had  been  busily  engaged  in  dispersing  its 
activities.  By  February  1944  it  had  moved  549  machines  to  the  new 
locations,  leaving  only  73  per  cent  of  its  total  stock  of  machines  in  the 
Schweinfurt  plants.  Thus  Schweinfurt  was  only  about  60  per  cent  as 
valuable  a target  in  February  1944  as  it  had  been  in  October  1943. 
Nevertheless  the  bearing  plants  suffered  heavy  damage  in  the  raids 
of  24-25  February,  especially  in  the  departments  processing  rings; 
and  the  ball  department,  already  half-dispersed,  lost  another  10  per 
cent  of  its  machines.  Many  of  the  most  important  processes  remained, 
however,  unaffected.28 

Bombing  at  Gotha  was  especially  accurate,  and  probably  more 
important  strategically  than  at  Schweinfurt.  Over  400  bombs,  both 
high  explosive  and  incendiary,  fell  in  the  target  area,  93  of  which  hit 
buildings;  this  does  not  count  the  large  number  of  fragmentation 
bombs  (180  tons  out  of  a total  of  424)  dropped  also.  Almost  every 
building  in  the  very  compact  factory  area  was  damaged.  The  eastern 
half  of  the  plant,  where  the  aircraft  manufacture  was  centered,  was 
generally  destroyed,  although  machine  tools,  the  vital  part  of  the  pro- 
duction system,  received  surprisingly  slight  damage,  considering  the 
amount  of  damage  to  buildings.  Most  of  the  loss  of  machine  tools 
resulted  from  fires.  Even  falling  debris  and  steel  girders  did  less  dam- 
age than  factory  executives  had  expected.  In  fact  the  loss  of  produc- 
tion following  the  raid  resulted  less  from  actual  damage  to  the  ma- 
chine tools  than  from  their  inaccessibility.  Much  time  and  labor  had  to 
be  expended  clearing  heavy  girders  from  the  machines  caught  under 
them.  Some  loss  of  production  also  resulted  from  the  policy  of  dis- 
persal begun  on  official  order  after  24  February.  In  all,  the  U.S.  Stra- 
tegic Bombing  Survey  estimated  that  as  a result  of  this  mission  the 
Gothaer  Waggonfabrik  A.G.  lost  about  six  to  seven  weeks’  produc- 
tion or  the  equivalent  of  140  planes.  Recuperation  was  rapid,  however. 
In  a little  over  two  months  the  concern  was  operating  again  at  full 
capacity.  But  it  must  be  remembered  that,  in  order  to  bring  about  full 


40 


LITTLE  BROTHERS:  P-38,  P-ji,  P-47 


BIG  WEEK 


production  at  new  dispersed  plants,  a heavy  drain  was  placed  on 
other  factories  in  the  Messerschmitt  ring.29 

As  if  to  add  a final  touch  of  celebration  to  a week  of  unwonted 
liberality,  the  weather  on  25  February  permitted  the  daylight  bombing 
forces  to  choose  almost  any  targets  they  wished  in  German  territory. 
The  decision  was  made  in  USSTAF  headquarters  to  launch  another 
full-scale  coordinated  attack  by  both  strategic  air  forces  against  the 
remaining  high-priority  objectives  in  southern  Germany.  The  Fif- 
teenth was  directed  to  attack  the  Messerschmitt  component  plant  at 
Regensburg-Priifening.  The  Eighth  was  given  both  Messerschmitt 
factories  at  Regensburg,  the  Messerschmitt  parent  plant  at  Augsburg, 
the  antifriction-bearing  plant  of  V.K.F.  at  Stuttgart,  and  the  factory  of 
Bachmann— Von  Blumenthal  at  Fiirth,  manufacturing  components  and 
assembling  Me-i  io’s.30 

The  mission  promised  to  be  a dangerous  and  taxing  day’s  work  for 
both  forces,  involving  as  it  did  for  each  an  extremely  deep  penetration. 
USSTAF  planners  hoped  that  this  closely  coordinated  attack,  the  first 
to  be  attempted  on  the  same  day  by  the  Eighth  and  Fifteenth  against 
the  same  objective,  would  split  and  confuse  the  German  fighter  forces. 
It  was  also  hoped  that  the  Germans  would  be  showing  the  strain  of 
five  days  of  constant  action.  An  additional  advantage  lay  in  the  fact 
that  the  targets  were  fairly  well  concentrated,  making  it  possible  for 
the  Eighth  to  move  its  huge  force  along  a single  line  of  penetration 
under  a single  comprehensive  plan  of  fighter  cover.  The  Fifteenth  was 
not  in  such  a favorable  position.  It  lacked  escort  of  sufficiently  long 
range  to  provide  protection  during  the  most  distant  phase  of  the  pene- 
tration. It  suffered  also  from  the  handicap  of  a relatively  small  force. 
Only  bombers  equipped  for  long-range  flying  could  be  sent  as  far  as 
Regensburg,  and,  although  the  Fifteenth  dispatched  that  day  almost 
400  bombers,  only  176  were  airborne  on  the  main  mission.  The  re- 
mainder hit  yards  and  port  installations  at  Fiume,  the  harbor  at  Zara, 
warehouses  and  sheds  at  Pola,  rail  lines  at  Zell-am-See,  and  the  airfield 
at  Graz-Thalerhof.31 

As  it  happened,  the  German  fighters  concentrated  relatively  larger 
forces  on  tbe  Fifteenth  than  on  the  Eighth,  with  the  result  that  the 
Foggia-based  bombers  lost  33  of  their  number  on  the  Regensburg 
mission,  or  nearly  one-fifth  of  the  attacking  force.  The  fighting  was 
intense,  and  the  bomber  crews  claimed  large  numbers  of  the  enemy 
shot  down.32  The  Eighth,  on  the  other  hand,  lost  only  3 1 of  its  total 


4i 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

force  of  7 3 8 credited  with  sorties.33  It  was  another  proof  of  the  fact, 
long  since  conceded  by  American  strategic  bombing  experts,  that  a 
daylight  bomber  force  without  full  fighter  cover  could  not  hope  to 
get  through  an  aggressive  enemy  without  excessive  losses,  especially 
when,  as  in  this  instance,  the  enemy  chose  to  concentrate  on  the  weak- 
er and  more  poorly  protected  force. 

All  forces  were  able  to  bomb  their  primary  targets  on  the  25th  and 
to  do  so  with  generally  good  accuracy.  Results  were  especially  impor- 
tant at  Regensburg  and  Augsburg,  although  a great  deal  of  destruction 
was  done  also  to  plant  and  finished  aircraft  at  Fiirth.  Regensburg  was 
the  heart  of  the  Me- 1 09  production  and  it  was  considered  worth  any 
reasonable  risk,  including  a slight  reduction  in  bombing  altitude,  to  do 
an  effective  job  on  the  two  plants  there.  In  the  raids  by  the  Fifteenth 
on  22  February  and  25  February  on  the  Obertraubling  factory  and 
by  the  Eighth  against  both  factories  on  the  25th,  scarcely  a building 
escaped  damage,  many  being  utterly  destroyed.  The  effect  on  aircraft 
production  was  great.  Plant  records  indicate  that  production  fell  from 
435  planes  per  month  in  January  1944  to  135  per  month  in  March 
1944,  the  decline  resulting  entirely  from  bomb  destruction.  The 
Regensburg  system  did  not  again  reach  scheduled  production  levels 
for  four  months.34  The  main  Messerschmitt  plant  at  Augsburg  under- 
went similarly  drastic  treatment.  Blast  and  fire  from  over  500  tons  of 
bombs  destroyed  approximately  thirty  buildings.  Production  capacity 
was  reduced  by  about  35  per  cent.  Almost  one-third  of  all  machine 
tools  were  damaged,  and  70  per  cent  of  stored  material  destroyed.  The 
plant  was,  however,  back  in  full  production  in  little  over  one  month.35 

Allied  intelligence,  working  on  the  basis  of  extremely  accurate  re- 
ports of  damage  to  factory  buildings,  quite  understandably  expected 
more  loss  of  production  than  actually  occurred.  The  error  arose  part- 
ly because  these  reports  contained  no  detailed  information  regarding 
dispersal  of  plant  functions.  Since  the  summer  of  1943,  when  the  first 
heavy  raid  was  made  by  the  AAF  against  the  Regensburg  factories 
( 1 7 August) , the  Messerschmitt  company  had  been  energetically  en- 
gaged in  dispersing  the  activity  of  all  major  plants  in  a closely  inte- 
grated system  of  small  factories,  many  of  them  cleverly  concealed  in 
forest  areas  adjoining  the  original  manufacturing  centers.  The  effect 
of  bombing  attacks  was  thus  greatly  reduced.  The  17  August  1943 
raid,  for  example,  had  prevented  the  Regensburg  complex  from  re- 
turning to  scheduled  production  for  five  months.  Although  much 


42 


BIG  WEEK 


heavier  and  more  devastating,  the  attack  of  25  February  retarded 
manufacture  for  only  four  months.38  Another  source  of  miscalculation 
lay  in  the  fact  that  here,  as  elsewhere,  the  machine  tools,  which  were 
the  least  replaceable  part  of  the  production  process  and  of  vital  impor- 
tance, suffered  astonishingly  slight  damage  considering  the  general 
devastation.  Underestimating  the  recuperability  of  such  plants, 
USSTAF  failed  in  many  instances  to  schedule  return  raids  which, 
undertaken  fairly  soon  after  the  completion  of  an  apparently  very 
effective  one,  might  have  finished  work  only  partly  accomplished.37 

After  these  attacks  of  25  February  the  weather  turned  bad  (indeed, 
it  would  be  generally  so  for  another  month)  and  ended  the  Big  Week. 

How  Big  Was  the  Big  Week? 

The  question  naturally  arises,  how  big  was  the  Big  Week?  To  those 
who  participated  in  it  and  who  directed  its  operations  it  looked  very 
big  indeed.  Perhaps  it  looked  even  larger  to  the  public  relations  men 
and  the  press  writers  who  were  responsible  for  giving  it  the  tag  that 
has  clung  to  it  ever  since.  If  under  the  unromantic  eye  of  the  historian 
it  loses  some  of  its  legendary  proportions,  it  remains  nevertheless  a 
truly  big  and  important  campaign. 

Here  are  some  of  the  facts,  many  of  them  gathered  since  the  end  of 
the  war  and  reconciled  where  possible  with  German  records.  Over 
3,300  bombers  from  the  Eighth  Air  Force  and  more  than  500  from  the 
Fifteenth  attacked  the  main  POINTBLANK  targets.  These  forces 
dropped  a total  of  almost  10,000  tons  of  bombs— a scale  of  attack 
roughly  equal  to  that  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force  during  its  entire  first 
year  of  operations.  Losses,  though  heavy,  were  less  than  had  generally 
been  anticipated.  USSTAF  planners  were  prepared  to  accept  losses  of 
as  many  as  200  heavy  bombers  on  a single  day’s  operation.  The  Eighth 
actually  lost  some  137  heavy  bombers  in  the  entire  six  days’  campaign, 
the  Fifteenth  89— an  over-all  average  of  about  6 per  cent.  Fighter 
sorties  in  support  of  the  heavy  bomber  missions  amounted  to  approxi- 
mately 2,548  for  the  Eighth  Air  Force,  712  for  the  Ninth,  and  413 
for  the  Fifteenth.  Total  fighter  losses  were  28.  A rough  estimate  of 
crewmen  lost,  including  those  killed  in  action,  missing,  and  seriously 
wounded,  would  be  2,6oo.3S  In  addition  to  the  weight  of  attack  de- 
livered by  the  American  forces,  mainly  in  connection  with  visual 
bombing  of  specific  industrial  targets,  the  RAF  made  five  heavy  raids 
against  cities  containing  priority  POINTBLANK  targets:  Leipzig, 


43 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

Stuttgart,  Schweinfurt,  Steyr,  and  Augsburg.  Some  2,351  of  its  air- 
craft dropped  9,198  (U.S.)  tons  of  bombs  for  a loss  of  157  heavy 
bombers,39  about  6.6  per  cent.  This  figure,  slightly  higher  than  that  of 
American  losses,  is  most  interesting  in  the  light  of  earlier  estimates  of 
the  relative  costs  of  day  and  night  bombing. 

The  scale  of  these  coordinated  operations  was  thus  big  enough  in 
all  reason.  It  is  more  difficult  to  estimate  their  effect  on  the  enemy  with 
equal  exactness  because  it  cannot  be  done  entirely  on  a quantitative 
basis.  Certain  general  conclusions  seem  warranted,  however.  The  U.S. 
Strategic  Bombing  Survey,  after  ransacking  German  sources,  esti- 
mated that  the  4,000-odd  tons  of  bombs  dropped  on  targets  in  the 
aircraft  industrial  system  alone  damaged  or  destroyed  75  per  cent  of 
the  buildings  in  plants  that  at  the  time  accounted  for  90  per  cent  of 
the  total  German  production  of  aircraft.  The  immediate  reaction  in 
the  industry  was  one  of  consternation,  we  are  told.  The  German 
authorities,  whose  plans  had  hitherto  rested  on  unduly  optimistic 
foundations,  now  apparently  for  the  first  time  showed  signs  of  des- 
peration. As  a result  of  the  bombing,  the  aircraft  industry  received  in 
late  February  a formal  order  to  disperse  its  plants.  That  order,  of 
course,  merely  intensified  a policy  begun  locally  and  unsystematically 
after  that  industry  first  came  under  daylight  bombing  attacks  in  the 
second  half  of  1943.  Also  t^e  bombings  helped  to  precipitate  a crisis  in 
the  over-all  organization  of  aircraft  production  which  culminated  in 
the  shifting  of  responsibility  from  Goering’s  Air  Ministry  to  a special 
agency  operating  within  the  Albert  Speer  Ministry  of  Armaments 
and  Munitions.  In  short,  the  February  bombings  had  the  effect  of 
galvanizing  the  aircraft  industry  into  feverish  action.40 

Thanks  in  part  to  that  activity,  directed  as  it  was  with  considerable 
resourcefulness,  the  effects  of  the  February  bombings  were  substan- 
tially mitigated.  Damage,  moreover,  proved  on  more  careful  investiga- 
tion to  have  been  proportionately  less  severe  in  the  vital  category  of 
machine  tools  than  to  buildings;  in  fact  a very  high  percentage  of  the 
former  was  salvaged.  Dispersal  was  especially  successful  in  the  air- 
frame and  final-assembly  branch  of  the  industry  (the  one  singled  out 
for  priority  attack)  since  it  was  possible  to  carry  on  most  of  the  nec- 
essary operations  in  roughly  constructed  frame  shelters,  many  of  them 
well  concealed  in  wooded  areas.  As  a result  of  these  several  factors,  air- 
craft production  recuperated  very  rapidly.  Interestingly  enough,  the 


44 


BIG  WEEK 


February  bombings,  heavy  and  accurate  as  they  were,  caused  less  total 
delay  in  aircraft  production  than  did  the  relatively  lighter  and  more 
isolated  attacks  conducted  by  the  Eighth  Air  Force  in  August  and 
October  1943.  The  latter  are  credited  with  causing  a three-month 
delay  in  production— the  former  with  only  about  two  months’  loss.41 

Failure  to  take  into  account  the  phenomenal  recuperability  of  the 
aircraft  industry,  especially  in  its  airframe  branch,  led  Allied  intelli- 
gence agencies  to  overestimate  the  effects  of  the  February  bombing 
campaign.  Reasonably  accurate  during  1943,  Allied  estimates  of  Ger- 
man fighter  production  became  after  February  1944  grossly  optimis- 
tic. The  average  monthly  production  of  German  single-engine  fight- 
ers during  the  last  half  of  1943  was  851,  as  against  Allied  estimates  of 
645.  For  the  first  half  of  1944,  on  the  other  hand,  actual  production 
reached  a monthly  average  of  1,581,  whereas  Allied  intelligence  esti- 
mated only  65 5. 42 

Allied  estimates  were  even  further  off  in  dealing  with  the  antifric- 
tion-bearing industry.  In  this  instance  the  original  estimates,  on  the 
basis  of  which  that  industry  had  been  selected  for  top-priority  bomb- 
ing, had  been  too  optimistic.  Ball  bearings  were  vital  enough  to  the 
aircraft  industry.  But  they  were  too  well  cushioned  in  the  production 
process:  basic  stocks  were  too  large,  the  pipelines  in  the  aircraft  in- 
dustry too  well  filled,  and  the  possibility  of  economy  too  great  for 
even  the  most  successful  bombing  of  the  bearing  plants  to  affect  final 
aircraft  production  appreciably.  Furthermore,  owing  to  the  vigorous 
policy  of  dispersal  which  has  been  mentioned  before,  the  Schweinfurt 
plant  had  nowhere  near  the  importance  it  had  possessed  in  1943. 48 

Unquestionably  the  Big  Week  derived  much  of  its  importance  from 
these  errors  in  intelligence.  Yet  it  must  be  remembered  that  the  Febru- 
ary bombings  did  deny  many  hundreds  of  aircraft  to  the  enemy  at  a 
time  when  they  were  badly  needed  and  could  probably  have  been 
brought  into  effective  use  against  the  Allied  invasion  of  Europe.  The 
fact  that  the  Germans  suffered  only  a temporary  setback  in  their  over- 
all program  of  aircraft  production  is  less  important  than  that  they 
lost  a significant  number  of  planes  at  a critical  point  in  the  air  war  and 
that,  at  the  same  critical  juncture,  they  were  forced  to  reorganize  and 
disperse  the  entire  industry.  According  to  the  U.S.  Strategic  Bombing 
Survey,  the  February  campaign  would  have  paid  off  even  if  its  only 
effect  had  been  to  force  the  enemy  into  an  intensive  program  of  dis- 


45 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

persal.  For  that  program  not  only  accounted  indirectly  for  much 
wasted  effort  and  production  loss;  it  also  left  the  industry  vulnerable 
to  any  serious  disruption  in  transportation.  The  dispersal  policy  did, 
in  fact,  defeat  itself  when  Allied  bombers  subsequently  turned  to  an 
intensive  strategic  attack  on  transportation.44 

Moreover,  the  effect  of  the  Big  Week  on  German  air  power  was 
not  restricted  to  bomb  damage.  Indeed,  there  is  reason  to  believe  that 
the  large  and  fiercely  fought  air  battles  of  those  six  February  days  had 
more  effect  in  establishing  the  air  superiority  on  which  Allied  plans 
so  largely  depended  than  did  the  bombing  of  industrial  plants.  Total 
USSTAF  claims  of  enemy  aircraft  destroyed  amounted  to  well  above 
600,  with  more  than  a third  of  these  victories  credited  to  the  fighter 
escort  and  roughly  another  third  to  the  bombers  of  the  Fifteenth  Air 
Force,  which  enjoyed  no  long-range  escort.45  It  is  impossible  at  this 
time  to  get  from  enemy  sources  an  exact  check  on  these  figures,  and 
it  may  be  impossible  for  all  time  to  do  that,  but  available  German 
records  do  indicate,  if  allowance  is  made  for  inevitable  duplications, 
that  USSTAF  claims  were  not  far  off. 

GAF  records  by  agreement  with  the  United  States  at  the  close  of 
the  war  went  to  Great  Britain,  where  the  unavoidably  tedious  analysis 
of  the  full  record  by  the  Historical  Branch  of  the  Air  Ministry  is  as 
yet  incomplete.  However,  certain  figures,  though  still  unreconciled, 
provide  informative  clues  as  to  the  critical  character  of  the  air  battles 
of  early  1944.  The  historical  section  of  the  German  high  command, 
in  compiling  cumulative  combat  losses  for  the  West  (including  the 
Reich)  from  the  time  of  the  invasion  of  Russia  in  June  1941,  showed 
a total  of  2,581  fighter  planes  lost  up  to  January  1944  and  the  loss  of  an 
additional  307  during  that  month.  Losses  in  February  jumped  to  456, 
of  which  number  only  65  were  night  fighters,  the  type  directed  chief- 
ly against  the  missions  of  the  RAF.  The  initial  cumulative  entry  for 
March,  moreover,  shows  by  comparison  with  the  closing  entry  for 
February  a discrepancy  of  77  additional  losses  in  the  category  of 
single-engine  fighters,  and  thus  the  total  for  February  may  well  have 
been  533  planes.  The  total  for  the  month  of  March  rises  to  567,  of 
which  94  were  night  fighters.*  A bound  record  (26FX-36a  of  the  high 
command),  which  is  stamped  with  a security  mark  indicating  it  was 
compiled  for  the  information  of  the  high  command  alone,  charts  total 

• QM  Collection  of  the  OKL  6th  Abteilung. 

46 


BIG  WEE  K 


aircraft  losses,  beginning  with  January  1944,  at  intervals  of  approxi- 
mately ten  days  as  follows: 


10 

Jan. 

1944 

355 

29 

Feb. 

1944  . 

545 

20 

Jan. 

1944. 

• • -335 

10 

Mar. 

*944  ■ 

.514 

3' 

Jan. 

1944.  . 

. 661 

20 

Mar. 

1944.  . 

. . . .552 

10 

Feb. 

1944. . . . 

...  508 

31 

Mar. 

1944. . 

■ • • 777? 

20 

Feb. 

W44  • ■ • 

. . . 388 

The  same  source  indicates  that  433  flying  personnel  were  killed  in 
February  1944,  that  341  were  reported  missing,  and  that  277  had  been 
wounded.  Preliminary  Air  Ministry  studies  based  on  German  records 
(AHB  6,  No.  132  and  AHB  6,  No.  133)  show  the  following  very  ten- 
tative monthly  totals  for  all  theaters: 

Aircraft  Destroyed  Losses  from  All  Causes 


January  1944 1,050  1,311 

February  1944 1,501  2,121 

March  1944 1,591  2,115 


Losses  on  the  Russian  front  are  listed,  respectively,  as  168,  466,  and 
431.  It  will  be  difficult  to  reconcile  all  of  these  figures,  and  it  is  not 
always  possible  to  determine  the  exact  basis  on  which  the  original 
statistics  were  compiled,  but  they  do  agree  in  their  testimony  to  an 
upturn,  possibly  even  a sharp  upturn,  in  attrition  as  of  February  1944 
and  to  results  even  more  disastrous  for  the  following  month. 

Strong  confirmation  for  such  a conclusion  is  found  in  the  abrupt 
change  which  occurred  in  GAF  strategy  after  February.  Although 
still  capable  of  the  stoutest  kind  of  local  resistance  on  occasion,  the 
enemy  now  refused  to  commit  himself  to  a policy  of  full-scale  opposi- 
tion to  the  daylight  bombing  campaign.  He  would  send  up  only  token 
resistance  to  some  missions  and  then  concentrate  as  large  a force  as  in 
earlier  months  against  a particular  operation.  At  other  times  the  GAF 
would  try  no  more  than  to  gain  a local  superiority  by  sending  over- 
whelming numbers  against  one  unit,  especially  a unit  that  had  in  some 
way  become  separated  from  its  fellows  or  was  left  without  adequate 
escort.46  In  short,  the  policy  was  one  of  conservation  of  strength  and 
it  conceded  to  the  Allies  the  vital  point  of  air  superiority. 

Responding  to  long-awaited  opportunities,  Allied  commanders 
pressed  hard  their  every  advantage,  and  for  the  first  time  in  many 
months  looked  beyond  the  “intermediate”  objective  of  defeating  the 
GAF  to  schedule  systematic  attacks  on  other  inviting  targets.47  No 
longer  were  bombing  missions  scheduled  and  routes  of  flight  selected 


47 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

with  an  eye  to  avoiding  enemy  defenses.  Instead,  in  March  it  became 
deliberate  policy  to  use  every  device  that  might  force  the  GAF  into 
combat.48  Fighter  escort,  which  hitherto  had  been  held  down  to  close 
support  of  the  bombers,  now  was  increasingly  cut  loose  from  strictly 
defensive  assignments  with  orders  to  seek  out  and  destroy  the  foe.49 
And  as  the  role  of  escort  became  thus  primarily  an  offensive  one,  the 
extension  of  fighter  range  made  it  possible  to  send  great  fleets  of  es- 
corted bombers  all  the  way  to  Berlin. 

Berlin 

During  the  last  days  of  February  and  the  first  days  of  March,  the 
Eighth  Air  Force  because  of  the  weather  had  to  confine  its  activities  to 
a few  short-range  missions  against  CROSSBOW  installations  on  the 
French  coast  and  to  a couple  of  pathfinder  expeditions,  one  to  Bruns- 
wick and  one  to  Frankfurt.  But  on  4 March  1944  the  Eighth  for  the 
first  time  bombed  Berlin. 

Hitler’s  capital  had  been  listed  in  the  directive  of  13  February*  as  a 
peculiarly  suitable  target  for  operations  by  both  the  British  and  the 
American  strategic  bombing  forces  (the  latter  employing  radar  tech- 
nique as  needed)  “whenever  weather  or  tactical  conditions  are  suitable 
for  such  operations  and  unsuitable  for  operations  against  the  primary 
objectives.”  The  purpose  of  attacks  on  Berlin  was  not  merely  to  de- 
stroy the  important  industries  located  in  the  area,  such  as  the  ball- 
bearing plants  at  Erkner,  nor  even  to  shake  enemy  morale,  although 
it  was  obvious  that  the  Germans  could  hardly  avoid  some  discourage- 
ment at  the  thought  of  both  RAF  and  AAF  attacks  against  their  cap- 
ital. It  was  hoped  that  the  German  fighters  would  react  quickly  to  any 
threat  to  Berlin  and  would  in  the  ensuing  air  battles  suffer  heavy  losses. 
This  hope  had  initially  embraced  overcast  and  night  attacks  against 
other  important  industrial  areas  as  well,  but  the  attacks  on  Brunswick 
and  Frankfurt  brought  out  something  less  than  full-scale  opposition. 
Bad  ground  weather  undoubtedly  helped  to  keep  the  German  fighters 
down  but  could  not  entirely  explain  the  weakness  of  the  opposition 
encountered  after  25  February.  It  having  been  assumed  that  the  opera- 
tions of  the  Big  Week  had  greatly  reduced  the  importance  of  the  top- 
priority  aircraft  and  antifriction-bearing  factories,  it  became  corre- 
spondingly more  important  to  force  a higher  rate  of  attrition  on  the 
GAF  in  being.  And  if  there  was  any  target  for  which  the  GAF  would 
fight,  surely  that  target  was  Berlin. 

* See  above,  pp.  27-28. 

48 


BIG  WEEK 


Consequently,  as  soon  as  it  was  apparent  that  the  intensive  campaign 
against  the  aircraft  and  bearing  industries  could  be  suspended  for  the 
time  being,  USSTAF  headquarters  planned  to  turn  the  Eighth  Air 
Force  as  rapidly  and  with  as  heavy  force  as  possible  against  Berlin.  It 
hoped  to  launch  a visual  attack  against  the  V.K.F.  antifriction-bearing 
plant  at  Erkner  and  the  Robert  Bosch  A.G.  in  the  Klein  Machnow 
suburb  of  Berlin,  makers  of  specialized  electrical  equipment  for  air- 
craft and  military  vehicles.  Should  neither  of  these  plants  be  open  for 
visual  bombing  the  Friedrichstrasse  section  of  Berlin  was  to  become 
the  objective  for  pathfinder-led  forces,  since  its  large  and  important 
railway  facilities  offered  an  especially  suitable  PFF  target.50 

The  decision  to  undertake  an  intensive  bombardment  of  Berlin  im- 
plied a new  confidence  on  the  part  of  the  American  air  command  in 
the  ability  of  the  long-range  fighter  escort  to  take  the  heavy  bombers 
to  distant  and  well-defended  targets.  And,  in  fact,  the  Berlin  campaign 
of  March  1944  marked  an  important  milestone  in  the  development  of 
the  long-range  fighter.  Since  its  first  use  in  the  theater  as  escort  on 
combat  missions  in  December  1943,  the  P-5 1 had  rapidly  demonstrated 
its  unique  suitability  for  this  purpose.  Operations  during  January,  in 
which  the  limited  number  of  P-5i’s  then  available  were  able  to  give 
target  support  to  the  bombers  on  all  their  important  missions,  further 
confirmed  the  feeling  that  this  plane  was  the  answer  to  the  long-range 
escort  problem.51  Since  January,  the  range  of  the  P-51  had  been  ex- 
tended. Without  external  tanks  that  aircraft  could  escort  to  a point 
approximately  475  miles  from  base,  a distance  roughly  equal  to  the 
maximum  escort  range  of  the  P-47  equipped  with  two  108-gallon 
auxiliary  wing  tanks.  In  March  it  was  demonstrated  that  the  P-5 1 with 
two  75-gallon  wing  tanks  could  escort  to  a point  about  650  miles  from 
base,  with  two  108-gallon  tanks  it  could  reach  the  then  unheard  of 
escort  range  of  850  miles.52  Long-range  escort,  which  of  recent 
months  had  been  recognized  by  all  as  the  bottleneck  of  the  daylight 
strategic  bombing  campaign,  was  now  a reality.  More  of  the  P-5i’s 
were  needed,  especially  in  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force,  which  had  to  go 
through  bitter  enemy  opposition  during  February  without  them;  but 
they  were  operating  by  March  in  sufficient  numbers  to  protect  some 
of  the  Eighth’s  largest  daylight  bomber  formations  even  over  the  most 
distant  targets.* 

• At  the  end  of  March  1944  there  were  operating  in  the  Eighth  Air  Force,  and  in  addi- 
tion to  the  Ninth’s  354th  Group,  three  groups— the  4th,  355th,  and  357th— with  140  P-51 
planes  completely  operational. 


49 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


On  3 March  the  bombing  force  had  been  briefed  for  Berlin  targets 
and  directed  to  use  either  visual  or  overcast  techniques  as  the  situation 
warranted.  But  the  bombers  ran  into  steadily  deteriorating  weather  as 
they  flew  over  the  North  Sea.  Over  Jutland  Peninsula  cloud  tops  ex- 
tended to  28,000  feet  and,  together  with  dense  and  persistent  contrails, 
made  formation  flying  almost  impossible.  Most  of  the  combat  wings 
therefore  abandoned  the  mission.  A few  units  bombed  Wilhelmshaven 
and  various  other  targets  of  opportunity.53 

The  effort  made  on  4 March  again  proved  none  too  successful.  One 
of  the  fourteen  combat  wings  of  bombers  managed  to  get  through  or 
around  the  clouds  and  bomb  the  Klein  Machnow  suburb  of  Berlin, 
but  the  rest  of  the  force  once  more  either  had  to  turn  back  or  bomb 
targets  of  opportunity  in  the  Ruhr.  The  single  combat  wing  that  flew 
on  to  Berlin  was  escorted  effectively  in  the  target  area  by  one  P-51 
group  and  some  units  of  another.  As  it  neared  the  target  area  it  was 
attacked  aggressively  by  thirty  to  thirty-five  single-engine  German 
fighters,  which  constituted  the  only  serious  opposition  encountered 
by  the  bombers  throughout  the  mission.  One  P-51  group  which  failed 
to  make  contact  with  the  bombers  sighted  a force  of  nearly  seventy 
enemy  aircraft  in  the  Berlin  area,  but  the  latter  refused  to  close  with 
the  American  fighters.  Losses  suffered  that  day  by  both  bombers  and 
escort  resulted  probably  more  from  the  bad  operating  conditions  than 
from  enemy  action.  The  combat  wing  (in  this  case  only  twenty-nine 
planes)  that  bombed  Berlin  began  what  looked  like  a promising  visual 
attack  on  the  Bosch  plant  through  a break  in  the  clouds,  but  it  was 
forced  to  continue  the  run  by  radar,  and  no  serious  damage  appears 
to  have  been  done  to  that  establishment.54 

The  mission  of  4 March  is  significant  chiefly  because  it  was  the 
first  time  American  forces  had  bombed  Berlin,  but  that  fact,  in  its 
moral  effect,  was  important.  Nor  was  that  effect  confined  to  the 
enemy.  The  London  Evening  Standard,  in  a leading  editorial  headed 
“Allies  over  Berlin,”  spoke  hopefully  of  the  increased  scope  of  inte- 
grated Anglo-American  bombing  and  saw  in  this  first  trip  of  the 
Americans  to  a target  long  held  in  high  regard  by  the  RAF  “a  sign  of 
the  unshakeable  comradeship”  of  the  American  and  British  peoples. 
German  propagandists,  who  had  spread  wild  rumors  of  political 
cleavage,  had  been  given  “a  resounding  answer  to  all  such  rattle.”55 

Two  days  later  the  American  bombers  returned  to  Berlin.  This  time 
visual  conditions  appeared  likely  and  the  bombing  forces  were  again 

5° 


BIG  WEEK 


given  the  Erkner  bearing  plant,  the  Bosch  electrical  equipment  plant, 
and,  in  addition,  the  Daimler-Benz  Moteren  GmbH  at  Genshagen, 
twenty  miles  south  of  Berlin,  producer  of  the  engines  used  in  the  latest 
type  FW- 190’s  and  Me-qno’s.  In  case  of  overcast,  all  formations  were 
accompanied,  as  usual,  by  pathfinders.  In  all,  660  aircraft  attacked, 
dropping  a total  of  1,626.2  tons  of  bombs,  both  high  explosive  and  in- 
cendiary. Overcast  conditions  and  the  attempt  to  make  use  of  uncer- 
tain visual  opportunities  tended  to  split  up  the  bomber  forces  and  con- 
fuse the  aimings  with  the  result  that  bombs  were  scattered  here  and 
there,  mostly  within  the  greater  Berlin  area  but  few  near  any  of  the 
high-priority  industrial  targets.56 

In  sharp  contrast  to  their  experience  on  the  4th,  the  bombers  ran 
into  exceedingly  bitter  and  effective  opposition.  Despite  almost  con- 
tinuous escort  by  successive  relays  drawn  from  fifteen  Eighth  Air 
Force  fighter  groups  and  four  groups  from  the  Ninth  Air  Force,  the 
bombers  sustained  intensive  attacks  by  a larger  force  of  enemy  fighters 
than  had  been  encountered  since  the  Big  Week.  Many  of  them  were 
twin-engine  aircraft,  about  half  of  which  were  night  fighters.  The 
appearance  of  the  latter  for  the  first  time  in  several  weeks  was  ex- 
plained by  the  fact  that  the  RAF  had  not  been  active  over  central 
Germany  for  several  nights.  The  bomber  force  lost  sixty-nine  aircraft, 
most  of  them  to  enemy  fighter  action,  although  the  number  lost  to 
antiaircraft  fire  was  larger  than  usual.  Eleven  of  the  escorting  fighters 
were  also  shot  down.  Bomber  crews  claimed  ninety-seven  enemy  de- 
stroyed; the  escort  fighter  pilots  claimed  eighty-two.87  It  is  impossible 
with  available  enemy  records  to  support  claims  so  high  as  these,  but 
it  is  clear  that  both  sides  lost  heavily  in  a fierce  and  important  air 
battle.58 

Clearly  also,  the  GAF  could  still  offer  serious  resistance.  Yet  it  was 
just  such  air  fights  that  the  American  commanders  hoped  to  provoke, 
confident  as  they  were  in  the  ability  of  their  airmen  to  impose  a ruinous 
wastage  upon  the  enemy.  If  their  confidence  rested  in  part  on  claims 
still  chronically  inflated,  despite  every  effort  to  distil  the  truth  from 
them,  it  nevertheless  reflected  what  was  coming  to  be  one  of  the  most 
important  facts  in  the  air  war:  the  actual  air  superiority  of  the  Allies. 
Berlin,  the  city  the  Germans  appeared  willing  to  defend  at  high  cost, 
retained  its  high  priority  for  daylight  attack  by  heavy  bombers  es- 
corted by  increasing  numbers  of  long-range  P-5 1 ’s. 

On  8 March,  two  days  after  this  heavy  air  battle,  the  Eighth  Air 

5i 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

Force  had  its  first  chance  to  bomb  targets  in  the  Berlin  area  totally 
without  the  aid  of  radar  equipment.  Again  the  main  objective  for 
visual  attack  was  the  Erkner  bearing  factory.  This  time  the  bombing 
was  heavy  and  reasonably  accurate.  A total  of  462  aircraft  dropped 
300.4  tons  of  high  explosives  and  762.8  tons  of  incendiaries  over  the 
target  area.  Some  68  bombers  were  forced  because  of  difficult  maneu- 
vering at  the  target  to  bomb  elsewhere.  The  bearing  plant  at  Erkner 
sustained  heavy  damage  as  a result  of  seventy-five  direct  hits  by  high- 
explosive  bombs  on  buildings  and  an  unascertainable,  but  doubtless 
equally  large,  number  by  incendiaries.  The  plant  was  out  of  operation 
entirely  for  a considerable  period  of  time.59 

Although  there  was  nothing  about  the  weather  on  the  8th  to  inhibit 
the  German  fighter  defenses,  and,  despite  the  fact  that  the  bomber 
force  had  as  on  both  previous  Berlin  missions  flown  the  shortest  and 
most  direct  course  across  Germany,  fighter  opposition  was  much 
weaker  than  on  the  6th.  It  was  especially  weak  in  the  twin-engine  air- 
craft which  had  taken  such  a large  part  in  that  earlier  action.  Un- 
doubtedly the  losses  sustained  by  the  Luftwaffe  on  the  6th  and  the 
strain  imposed  by  the  repeated  bombing  of  central  German  targets  on 
the  already  overburdened  enemy  pilots  held  many  units  on  the  ground. 
But  it  must  also  be  remembered  that  the  bombers  on  the  8th  enjoyed 
the  most  complete  long-range  escort  yet  assembled.  Four  groups  of 
P-5i’s,  numbering  174  aircraft,  supported  the  bombers  on  the  last  leg 
of  the  penetration  flight,  throughout  the  target  area,  and  for  a con- 
siderable distance  on  the  withdrawal.  A record  total  of  1,015  Ameri- 
can fighters  took  off  for  escort  duty  that  day,  of  which  891  received 
credit  for  sorties.  The  bomber  force  lost,  in  all,  37  planes  out  of  590 
credited  with  sorties.  The  escort  lost  17,  but  claimed  87  of  the  enemy. 
Strong  forces  of  Ninth  Air  Force  B-26’s  escorted  by  RAF  Spitfires 
bombed  airfields  in  Holland,  their  attacks  timed  in  such  a way  as  to 
embarrass  the  fighter  units  stationed  in  the  west  just  at  the  time  they 
would  be  preparing  to  intercept  the  bombers  both  on  penetration  and 
withdrawal.  It  is  doubtful,  however,  whether  these  diversionary  mis- 
sions did  much  to  weaken  the  enemy  line  of  defense  which  was  be- 
coming established  well  to  the  east,  in  the  Diimmer  See  area  of  Ger- 
many.60 

The  Berlin  mission  of  8 March,  coming  as  it  did  close  on  the  heels  of 
two  other  attacks  on  the  capital,  forced  the  German  propagandists  to 
use  all  their  resourcefulness.  The  sight  of  compact  and  orderly  forma- 


52 


BIG  WEEK 


tions  of  American  heavy  bombers  flying  in  clear  sky  over  the  city 
could  not  but  have  made  a deep  impression  on  the  Berliners.  We  have 
Goering’s  word  that  the  appearance  of  American  long-range  fighters 
over  Berlin  was  even  more  disturbing  to  the  military.  That,  he  told 
interrogators  on  one  occasion,  was  something  he  had  never  thought 
possible.  But  it  was  the  tight  formations  of  heavy  bombers  that  had 
first  of  all  to  be  explained.  On  1 3 March  the  Berlin  papers,  responding 
to  what  was  evidently  a general  decision  in  the  propaganda  ministry, 
finally  broke  silence.  The  Berliner  Boersen-Zeitung  declared:  “If  the 
inhabitants  of  the  capital  were  surprised  that,  despite  the  heavy  de- 
fenses and  heavy  losses,  isolated  enemy  formations  reached  the  capital 
in  formation,  it  must  be  remembered  that  this  need  not  be  interpreted 
as  a sign  of  strength  at  all.”  From  the  V oelkischer  Beobachter  came 
the  additional  answer:  “If  occasionally  they  fly  in  a clear  sky  without 
at  the  moment  being  pursued  by  the  dreaded  German  fighters,  only 
the  layman  is  fooled,  and  then  only  for  a few  minutes. ...  In  their  case 
the  closed  drill  formation  is  not  a sign  of  strength.”01 

Eighth  Air  Force  bombers  made  only  one  more  trip  to  Berlin  and 
its  environs  during  the  remainder  of  March.  The  consistently  bad 
weather  which  had  blanketed  central  Europe  since  the  third  week  in 
February  made  even  pathfinder  missions  to  the  capital  impracticable 
until  22  March,  when  the  Eighth  once  more  set  out  for  the  Berlin  area. 
This  time  they  intended  if  possible  to  bomb  the  Heinkel  aircraft  plants 
at  Oranienburg  and  the  Bayerische  Motorenwerke  at  Basdorf,  maker 
of  engines  for  FW-i^o’s.  But  the  chances  of  a visual  bombing  run 
were  not  too  good,  and  all  formations  prepared  as  an  alternative  to 
bomb  the  Friedrichstrasse  section  of  Berlin  itself  by  pathfinder.  Some 
units  tried  to  bomb  visually,  but  the  greater  weight  of  attack  was  made 
by  overcast  methods.  The  enemy  fighters  reacted  only  on  a very  lim- 
ited scale,  despite  weather  conditions  reasonably  good  for  purposes  of 
interception,  and  it  is  doubtful  whether  the  fighters  were  responsible 
for  more  than  1 or  2 of  the  1 2 bombers  lost  out  of  a force  of  669  flying 
sorties.  The  rest  went  down  as  a result  of  accident  or  antiaircraft  fire. 
Such  fighters  as  did  attempt  to  intercept  carefully  avoided  the  Ameri- 
can escort,  which  was  unable  to  register  a single  claim  against  the 
enemy  in  the  air.62 

If  the  weather  discouraged  further  attacks  on  Berlin,  it  proved 
equally  discouraging  to  any  other  high-priority  enterprise  during  the 
last  three  weeks  of  March.  For  the  most  part,  the  Eighth  was  forced 


53 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

to  fall  back  on  fairly  large  pathfinder  missions  to  the  old  familiar  in- 
dustrial centers:  Frankfurt,  Brunswick,  Wilhelmshaven,  and  Munster. 
Brunswick,  with  its  important  aircraft  industries,  sustained  three  such 
attacks,  and  Frankfurt,  two.  Occasionally,  when  conditions  were  un- 
favorable for  activity  over  Germany,  the  Eighth  would  dispatch  lim- 
ited forces  to  assist  in  the  bombing  of  CROSSBOW  targets  on  the 
French  coast.  Twice  it  was  decided  that  pressure  on  the  GAF  under 
such  circumstances  could  best  be  maintained  by  sizable  precision  at- 
tacks against  a number  of  airfields  in  France.  During  few  of  these 
missions,  to  either  France  or  Germany,  did  the  bombing  force  en- 
counter serious  enemy  fighter  opposition.  When,  as  in  the  case  of  the 
missions  on  the  16th  and  r 8th  to  the  aircraft  factories  in  southern 
Germany,  the  Luftwaffe  chose  to  make  a fight  of  it,  the  reaction  was 
limited  to  certain  phases  of  the  penetration  flight  and  to  the  target 
area.03  It  was  on  18  March  that  the  Eighth  Air  Force  made  its  only 
visual  attack  on  the  aircraft  factories  since  the  Big  Week,  in  one  of 
the  two  predominantly  visual  attacks  against  German  targets  during 
the  entire  month  of  March. 

For  all  these  limitations,  it  had  been  a month  of  the  utmost  activity 
for  the  Eighth  Air  Force,  which  operated  on  twenty-three  days  dur- 
ing the  month,  and  on  thirteen  of  those  occasions  may  be  said  to  have 
operated  at  maximum  strength.  But  the  month’s  activities  fell  far  short 
of  the  intensive  and  selective  February  attacks  on  the  high-priority 
POINTBLANK  objectives.  The  missions  that  were  run  kept  the 
German  war  machine  under  constant  pressure,  but  it  was  not  the  kind 
of  pressure  the  American  strategic  bombing  experts  hoped  to  be  able 
to  apply.  It  was  not  concentrated  at  those  points  which  Allied  intelli- 
gence, on  grounds  not  always  too  sound,  believed  vital  to  the  enemy 
war  effort.84 

As  for  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force,  it  was  unable  to  contribute  signifi- 
cantly during  March  to  the  furtherance  of  POINTBLANK,  unless  its 
frequent  attacks  on  Italian  airfields  might  be  considered  an  indirect 
contribution  to  the  general  battle  of  attrition  being  fought  with  the 
GAF.  After  its  very  effective  participation  in  the  Big  Week,  the  Fif- 
teenth returned  almost  exclusively  to  the  bombing  of  marshalling 
yards,  bridges,  and  airdromes  in  Italy.  The  rate  and  scale  of  its  opera- 
tions increased,  owing  largely  to  the  availability  of  three  new  heavy 
bomber  groups— the  459th,  460th,  and  463d,  all  of  which  became 
operational  during  March— but  it  was  seldom  able  to  get  across  the 


54 


BIG  WEEK 


Alps  and  failed  to  attack  the  high-priority  targets  in  southern  Ger- 
many. Partly  to  blame  was  the  land  campaign  which  continued  to  be 
critical,  but  the  weather  in  Italy  itself  was  not  good  for  flying  during 
March— missions  were  canceled  on  eighteen  days— and  the  principal 
handicap  to  strategic  operations  over  Germany  was  the  solid  bank  of 
cloud  that  hung  a great  deal  of  the  time  over  the  mountains  between 
the  Fifteenth  and  its  German  objectives  and  which  the  heavy  bomber 
formations  repeatedly  found  impossible  to  fly  over,  under,  or  through. 
Although  a radar-bombing  program  was  being  worked  out  in  Italy, 
no  HzX  missions  were  as  yet  possible.  The  Fifteenth  was  also  in  bad 
need  of  long-range  escort,  as  had  been  demonstrated  by  the  high  rate 
of  loss  sustained  in  the  February  missions  to  Regensburg  and  Steyr. 
But  the  force  was  prepared  to  accept  these  losses  if  an  opportunity 
for  a visual  attack  against  a priority  POINTBLANK  target  presented 
itself.65 

The  contribution  made  by  the  Fifteenth  to  the  defeat  of  the  GAF 
during  the  early  months  of  1944  was  not  confined,  however,  to  the 
few  missions  flown  to  CBO  targets  in  Germany.  Partly  in  connection 
with  the  Italian  ground  campaign  and  partly  in  an  effort  to  press  the 
counter-air  campaign,  the  Fifteenth  had  for  example  on  30  January 
dealt  a serious  blow  to  the  enemy  air  arm  in  Italy  by  a mission  against 
airfields  and  repair  depots  in  the  Po  Valley.  So  skilfully  was  the  work 
of  the  escort  fighters  coordinated  with  that  of  the  bombing  forces  that 
large  numbers  of  the  enemy  were  destroyed  either  in  the  air  or  on  the 
ground.  After  this  date,  and  to  a large  extent  as  a result  of  such  quasi- 
tactical  operations  as  the  one  just  mentioned,  air  opposition  to  strategic- 
day  operations  within  Italy  virtually  ceased.68 

The  March  operations,  particularly  those  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force, 
marked  in  many  respects  a turning  point  in  the  air  war.  It  became  fully 
apparent  during  this  month  that  the  GAF  had  lost  the  advantage  it  had 
maintained  so  successfully  from  the  fall  of  1943  to  late  February. 
When  escorting  fighters  were  present  the  Germans  showed  a marked 
disinclination  to  tangle  either  with  the  bombers  or  with  the  escort. 
When,  as  happened  on  one  or  two  occasions,  notably  on  18  March, 
an  error  in  timing  left  the  bombers  for  a while  without  fighter  pro- 
tection, the  Germans  made  clever  and  devastating  use  of  the  oppor- 
tunity.67 The  Luftwaffe  could  still  hit,  and  hit  hard;  but  it  was  no 
longer  capable  of  that  sustained  counterattack  which  had  at  one  time 
so  nearly  frustrated  the  entire  CBO.  From  this  point  on,  the  rate  of 


55 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


loss  to  enemy  aircraft  suffered  by  the  Eighth  Air  Force  tended  sharply 
to  decrease. 

Antiaircraft  fire,  on  the  other  hand,  tended  to  become  more  danger- 
ous. Always  a major  threat,  it  had  nevertheless  accounted  more  for 
reparable  battle  damage  than  for  bombers  shot  down.  Since  January, 
however,  the  German  ground  defenses  had  been  steadily  reinforced, 
so  that  by  March  the  daylight  bombing  forces  were  facing  a greatly 
increased  volume  of  flak,  much  of  which  was  directed  with  improved 
accuracy.  According  to  Field  Marshal  Wilhelm  Keitel,  Hitler  himself 
after  the  fall  of  1943  became  convinced  that  flak  was  the  only  possible 
defense  against  air  attack.  The  improvement  in  antiaircraft  was  ob- 
viously meant  to  compensate  for  the  decreasing  effectiveness  of  the 
GAF,88  and  by  the  late  spring  of  1 944  flak  had  come  to  be  responsible 
for  more  of  the  losses  sustained  by  AAF  bomber  forces  than  were  the 
German  fighters.09 

This  fact  made  both  the  Eighth  and  the  Fifteenth  pay  close  attention 
to  their  defense  against  flak.  It  was  often  impossible  to  avoid  flak  areas, 
especially  when  the  distance  to  targets  deep  in  Germany  required  a 
more  or  less  direct  course.  Nor  was  it  possible  to  do  more  than  had 
already  been  done  in  the  way  of  high-altitude  flying  and  evasive  tactics. 
It  was,  however,  possible  to  reduce  the  size  of  formations,  especially 
now  that  the  need  for  concentrating  maximum  fire  against  attacking 
fighters  had  decreased.  By  so  doing,  a smaller  target  could  be  presented. 
This  tactic  was  being  worked  on  in  the  late  spring  of  1944.  It  was  also 
possible  to  increase  the  use  of  radio  countermeasures.  Beginning  in 
October  1943,  the  countermeasure  known  as  Carpet  had  been  em- 
ployed, and  in  December  1943  Window  was  used  for  the  first  time. 
The  object  of  both  devices  was  to  jam  the  enemy’s  radar  so  that  he 
could  not  make  use  of  automatic  gun-laying  equipment.  During  the 
period  covered  by  this  chapter,  however,  the  Eighth  Air  Force,  which 
was  doing  most  of  the  experimental  work  in  the  use  of  these  counter- 
measures, had  not  enough  equipment,  nor  was  it  able  to  make  enough 
use  of  it  to  be  very  effective.  Flak  continued  throughout  the  summer 
of  1944  to  be  the  major  defensive  concern  of  the  daylight  bombers.70 

Final  Estimate 

On  1 April  1944  the  Combined  Bomber  Offensive  reached  its  legal 
end  and  the  U.S.  Strategic  Air  Forces  passed  from  the  control  of  the 
RAF  chief  of  air  staff,  acting  as  agent  for  the  CCS,  to  that  of  the 

56 


BIG  WEEK 


supreme  Allied  commander,  although  the  transfer  was  not  formally 
effected  until  14  April.71  In  a very  real  sense,  of  course,  the  month  of 
April  1944  marks  the  beginning  of  a decisive  phase  of  the  CBO,  for 
only  then  did  the  Allied  bombing  forces  undertake  those  paralyzing 
attacks  against  the  sources  of  Germany’s  oil  supply  and  against  her 
transportation  system  which,  according  to  most  German  authorities, 
eventually  came  as  near  as  was  necessary  to  that  “fatal”  weakening 
of  the  German  war  economy  envisioned  by  the  CCS  at  Casablanca  in 
January  1943.  But  the  Combined  Bomber  Offensive  had  found  its  offi- 
cial place  in  the  pre-invasion  strategy  in  the  form  of  a four-phase  plan 
for  operations  extending  from  April  1943  to  1 April  1944,*  and  the 
termination  of  that  period  of  time  demands  at  this  point  some  attempt 
to  estimate  the  over-all  accomplishment. 

The  CBO  Plan  had  provided  for  systematic  attack  against  a wide 
variety  of  key  war  industries,  but  it  had  also  embodied  the  principle 
that  first  the  enemy’s  main  lines  of  strategic  defense  would  have  to  be 
breached.  In  other  words,  it  had  been  considered  necessary  that  the 
enemy’s  submarine  fleet  and  his  air  force  be  defeated  before  his  vital 
industries  could  be  bombed,  and  these  two  objectives  accordingly  had 
been  placed  at  the  top  of  the  priority  list  of  Eighth  Air  Force  targets. 
It  was  in  this  sense  that  the  one  had  been  made  an  “intermediate  objec- 
tive second  to  none  in  priority,”  and  the  other  had  received  top  place 
in  the  listing  of  primary  objectives.  Much  time  and  effort  had  gone 
into  a campaign  against  the  submarine  pens  and  yards  until,  with  the 
summer  of  1943,  the  enemy  submarine  fleet  had  suffered  defeat  at  the 
hands  of  agencies  other  than  the  Eighth  Air  Force.  This  left  the  Ger- 
man Air  Force  in  undisputed  possession  of  first  priority,  and  from  June 
1943  to  April  1944  the  counter-air  offensive  continued  to  represent  the 
major  effort  of  the  American  bombers.  Indeed,  the  crucial  question 
as  to  the  effectiveness  of  the  Combined  Bomber  Offensive  will  be 
answered  if  it  can  be  determined  how  successful  the  U.S.  strategic 
bombing  forces  were  in  their  campaign  to  defeat  the  Luftwaffe. 

Other  aspects  of  the  CBO  effort  by  the  American  daylight  bombers 
prior  to  1 April  1 944  can  be  dealt  with  summarily.  The  antisubmarine 
offensive  was  a misdirection  of  effort,  and  one  for  which  AAF  leaders 
were  not  primarily  responsible.  Occasional  shrewd  blows  at  basic  in- 
dustries such  as  the  bombing  of  the  synthetic  rubber  works  at  Hiils 
in  June  1943  and  of  the  light-metal  industry  at  Heroya,  Norway,  in 

* For  discussion  and  evaluation  of  that  plan,  see  Vol.  II,  348-76. 


57 


T HE  A R M Y AIR  FORCES  IN  W ORLD  WAR  II 


July  of  that  year,  though  very  damaging,  were  too  isolated  to  he  de- 
cisive in  the  long  run.  The  rest  of  what  one  might  term  this  miscel- 
laneous effort  had  the  principal  virtue  of  making  the  Germans  reach 
down  deeper  into  their  considerable  reserves  of  productive  capacity, 
materiel,  and  manpower.  But  it  also  helped  rouse  them  belatedly  to  the 
threat  involved  in  the  bomber  offensive. 

Less  easily  dismissed  are  the  series  of  concentrated  and  heavy  radar- 
bombing missions  against  such  important  industrial  centers  as  Frank- 
furt, Ludwigshafen,  and  Bremen.  Essentially  area  bombing  attacks, 
they  fall  under  the  same  criticism  to  which  the  entire  policy  of  area 
devastation,  as  distinct  from  the  selective  or  the  so-called  precision 
type  of  attack,  has  been  subjected.72  Any  destruction  of  life  or  prop- 
erty doubtless  makes  things  more  difficult  for  an  enemy;  and  the  area 
bombing  policy  unquestionably  helped  to  cut  through  a thick  cushion 
of  excess  energy  and  productive  capacity  that  protected  the  German 
economy.  These  operations  also  served  to  force  a continuing  diversion 
of  the  enemy’s  resources  to  purely  defensive  effort  and  thus  helped  to 
cut  down  his  offensive  potential.  But  the  results  are  hard  to  measure 
and  there  are  other  difficulties  including  those  which  bear  on  the  moral 
issue— an  issue  that  would  be  raised  repeatedly  by  the  AAF  itself  in 
objection  to  later  proposals  for  diversion  of  its  effort  from  selective  to 
area  bombardment.* 

What,  then,  of  the  visual  and  more  or  less  accurate  attacks  launched 
by  the  American  strategic  forces  prior  to  i April  1 944  against  German 
air  power?  On  6 June  1944,  General  Eisenhower  was  able  to  say  to  the 
invasion  forces  under  his  command,  “If  you  see  fighting  aircraft  over 
you,  they  will  be  ours.”73  As  a matter  of  fact,  Lt.  Gen.  Werner  Junck, 
commander  of  German  fighter  defenses  in  the  invasion  area,  later  ad- 
mitted that  on  D-day  he  had  on  hand  only  160  aircraft,  of  which  but 
80  were  in  operational  order,  and  that  during  the  ensuing  month  he 
was  furnished  for  his  critical  area  reinforcements  amounting  only  to 
600  planes.74  In  other  words,  SHAEF  was  able  to  count  on  air  superi- 
ority during  the  entire  invasion  operation.  Because  it  was  just  that  situ- 
ation that  the  strategic  bombing  forces  had  been  laboring  since  June 
1943  to  achieve,  the  answer  to  the  question  stated  at  the  beginning  of 
this  paragraph  would  seem  to  be  clear. 

And  so  it  is.  The  GAF  had  suffered  decisive  defeat.  That  defeat  was 
brought  about  by  attrition  of  the  German  fighter  forces  in  the  air  and 

* See  below,  pp.  284,  638-40,  726-28,  733. 

58 


BIG  WEEK 


on  the  ground,  by  the  consequent  deterioration  in  quality  of  the  Ger- 
man fighter  pilots,  and  by  attacks  on  German  aircraft  production 
which  caused  delay  in  the  expansion  of  the  German  fighter  force. 
Allied  air  superiority  thus  gained  was  maintained  throughout  the  Euro- 
pean war  by  the  combined  efforts  of  the  RAF  and  USAAF  through 
continued  attrition,  through  destruction  of  the  sources  of  aircraft  fuel, 
and  through  disruption  of  the  GAF  system  of  supply,  repair,  and  dis- 
persed manufacturing  facilities  by  attacks  on  the  entire  transportation 
network.75  Just  before  the  invasion  of  Normandy  the  growing  power 
of  AEAF  had  helped  to  clinch  the  initial  victory,*  but  that  the  issue 
already  had  been  settled  by  the  strategic  forces  is  clearly  written  in  the 
inability  of  the  GAF  to  defend  even  the  Fatherland  after  February. 
In  an  analysis  of  the  causes  of  Germany’s  defeat  in  the  air,  Air  Marshal 
Sir  Norman  H.  Bottomley  in  August  1947  concluded  that  “in  the 
building  up  of  a situation  of  air  superiority  which  was  an  absolute  pre- 
requisite of  the  projected  land  assault  of  Europe,  the  greatest  contri- 
bution made  by  any  force  was  that  made  by  the  Strategic  Air  Forces, 
and  particularly  by  those  of  the  United  States.”78 

Clear  as  these  general  conclusions  are,  the  story  of  the  defeat  of  the 
GAF  remains  a very  complex  one.  While  it  is  not  the  purpose  of  this 
history  to  tell  it  in  detail  or  retrace  the  ground  thoroughly  surveyed 
by  various  agencies,  especially  the  U.S.  Strategic  Bombing  Survey, 
some  of  the  problems,  paradoxes,  and  enigmas  involved  in  it  bear  re- 
sketching—if  for  no  other  reason,  in  the  interests  of  a clearer  under- 
standing of  what  strategic  air  power  can  and  cannot  do. 

Most  baffling  of  all  at  first  glance  is  the  fact  that  the  German  aircraft 
industry  continued  to  expand  throughout  1943  and  most  of  1944  de- 
spite the  severe  and  accurate  pounding  given  it  by  daylight  bombing 
forces.  To  be  sure,  it  suffered  two  serious  setbacks.  The  raids  of  the 
summer  and  fall  of  1943  are  estimated  to  have  caused  as  much  as  three 
months’  loss  of  production;  those  of  February  1944,  a total  of  two 
months.  To  the  Allied  strategists,  accurately  informed  about  damage 
to  plant  buildings  if  not  to  the  inner  workings  of  the  factories,77  it 
seemed  at  the  time  that  the  GAF  must  certainly  be  on  the  decline  from 
sheer  inability  to  replace  its  losses.78  After  the  1943  raids,  however, 
the  German  fighters  not  only  maintained  their  front-line  strength  but 
added  to  it,  becoming  by  1944  a more  serious  threat  than  ever  to  Allied 
operations  of  all  sorts.  After  the  February  1944  attacks,  their  ability 
* For  the  operations  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force,  see  below,  pp.  121-26  and  Chap.  6. 

59 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


to  oppose  daylight  bombing  missions  tended  rapidly  to  deteriorate,  and 
this  fitted  Allied  expectations,  but  there  was  to  be  a surprise  after  the 
termination  of  hostilities.  Investigation  of  German  production  records 
revealed  the  astonishing  fact  that,  despite  the  staggering  blows  de- 
livered by  the  Allies  in  February,  aircraft  acceptance  figures  for  single- 
engine aircraft  rose  rapidly  until  September  1944.79  A chart  showing 
both  this  increase  and  the  rising  weight  of  bombs  dropped  on  the  in- 
dustry up  to  April  1944  would  picture  this  paradox  graphically— and 
quite  misleadingly. 

The  increased  production  of  fighter  aircraft  in  1944  was  in  reality 
part  of  a huge  program  of  expansion  begun  in  1943.  As  a result  of 
Germany’s  early  and  easy  victories  and  of  a curiously  shortsighted  and 
optimistic  forecast  of  military  needs,  Hitler  and  his  staff  had  allowed 
the  air  arm  to  take  a relatively  low  priority  in  the  arms  programs 
governing  production  early  in  the  war,  a decision  supported  by  re- 
fusal to  believe  the  accurate  reports  of  rapidly  accelerating  British 
and  American  aircraft  production.  Allied  intelligence  on  the  contrary 
tended  before  1943  very  naturally  to  believe  that  the  Germans  were 
producing  far  more  planes  than  was  actually  the  case.  Only  in  Sep- 
tember 1942  did  the  German  high  command  approve  a program  of 
substantially  increased  aircraft  production,  and  as  Germany  began  to 
feel  the  rising  air  strength  of  the  Allies,  a greatly  enlarged  production 
program  was  worked  out  in  April  1943.  In  answer  to  the  rising  tempo 
of  the  CBO,  the  Germans  greatly  enlarged  that  program  in  August 
1943  and  again  in  October  of  that  year.  By  February  1944,  the  time 
of  the  heaviest  attacks  against  the  industry,  these  planned  programs 
were  on  the  point  of  producing  maximum  results.  Pipelines  were  full. 
Some  dispersal  of  plants  had  been  successfully  carried  out.  The  in- 
dustry was  humming  after  a winter  during  which  the  weather  had 
granted  it  relative  immunity  from  heavy  attack.80 

The  February  bombings,  damaging  as  they  were,  served  also  to  re- 
double efforts  to  promote  aircraft  production  and  thus  to  stimulate  the 
industry.  The  Speer  ministry,  the  new  authority  in  charge  of  that  in- 
dustry and  one  fully  alive  to  the  urgency  of  the  situation,  ordered 
dispersal  on  a grand  scale,  made  use  of  the  still  considerable  reserves 
of  unused  plant  capacity  and  equipment  (the  industry  had  at  least  100 
per  cent  excess  in  this  respect  before  the  inauguration  of  the  CBO), 
diverted  labor  and  materials  in  short  supply  from  less  critical  activities, 
and  even  employed  the  tactics  of  political  terrorism  in  order  to  increase 

60 


BIG  WEEK 


production.  What  the  total  production  for  1944  would  have  been  but 
for  the  bombing  must  remain  a matter  of  conjecture.  But  it  is  with 
this  huge  program  of  expansion  in  mind  that  the  effectiveness  of  the 
bombing  attacks  must  be  estimated.81 

It  must  also  be  borne  in  mind  that  the  production  figures  are  not  re- 
flected in  any  proportional  increase  in  tbe  enemy  battle  order,  which 
is  the  crucial  datum.  According  to  figures  compiled  by  the  U.S.  Stra- 
tegic Bombing  Survey  from  German  sources,  a total  of  25,860  single- 
engine fighters  were  accepted  from  production  in  1944.  Of  this  total 
a large  percentage  seems  to  have  represented  aircraft  repaired  after 
battle  damage.  Such,  at  any  rate,  is  strongly  suggested  by  a document 
( Ausveertung  der  Einsatzbereitsch  der  fliegenden  Verb,  vom  1 Au- 
gust 1943  bis  November  1944)  now  in  the  custody  of  the  British  Air 
Ministry  and  picked  up  at  Berchtesgaden  at  the  end  of  hostilities  with 
the  high  classification  common  to  files  of  the  enemy  high  command. 
Its  figures  are  compared  with  the  USSBS  totals  in  the  following  table: 


USSBS  Fighters  of  the  Jagd  T ype 


Single-engine  Acceptances 

Newly  Built  (neubau) 

Repaired 

Jan 

",3*5 

1,162 

237 

Feb 

1,016 

794 

320 

Mar 

M77 

934 

373 

Apr. 

1,696 

1,016 

456 

May 



1,380 

384 

June 

2i!77 

1,704 

596 

July 

*,627 

',875 

671 

Aug 

2,779 

1,798 

676 

Sept. 

3,03 1 

Oct. 

2,735 

Nov. 

• ■ .2,776 

Dec 

2,424 

It  is  readily  apparent  that  the  totals  for  the  two  right-hand  columns 
compare  very  closely  with  those  given  at  the  left.  The  Germans  wrote 
off  an  aircraft  as  lost  when  it  was  damaged  by  60  per  cent  and  classi- 
fied the  plane  as  damaged  when  injuries  were  estimated  at  10  to  60 
per  cent.  USSBS  studies  indicate  that  losses  of  single-engine  fighters 
in  front-line  units  came  for  the  year  to  about  8,500  and  that  an  addi- 
tional 8,000  planes  were  damaged  in  excess  of  10  per  cent.  According 
to  the  same  source,  the  German  order  of  battle  in  that  category  in- 
creased from  1,500  to  no  more  than  2,200  during  the  year.82  Certainly 
the  Luftwaffe  as  a fighting  force  seldom  gave  Allied  analysts  reason 
to  doubt  the  accuracy  of  estimates  of  German  production  during  1 944 

6r 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


which  turned  out  to  be  much  smaller  than  the  official  German  figures.* 
One  answer  to  this  problem  lies  in  the  supply  and  quality  of  German 
pilots.  No  matter  how  many  aircraft  were  produced  they  were  of  no 
possible  use  unless  men  were  available  to  fly  them.  This  appears  to  have 
been  the  weakest  point  in  the  entire  German  air  situation.  The  bottle- 
neck within  this  bottleneck  was  the  training  program.  It  has  been  dis- 
covered that,  again  as  a result  of  too  optimistic  an  estimate  of  require- 
ments, the  German  high  command  found  itself  in  need  of  a substan- 
tially increased  flow  of  pilot  replacements  in  1943.  Pressure  was  conse- 
quently put  on  the  fighter  training  schools  to  speed  up  their  program. 
But  the  training  of  pilots  requires  aviation  fuel;  and  Germany  did  not 
have  enough  leeway  in  this  respect  to  allow  the  schools  to  be  prodigal 
in  their  gasoline  consumption.  In  fact,  it  became  difficult  for  the  schools 
to  obtain  enough  for  a minimum  program.  They  could,  therefore,  fol- 
low two  alternative  courses:  either  fall  short  of  the  required  replace- 
ments or  cut  hours  of  training  so  that  fuel  allocations  would  be  suffi- 
cient to  produce  the  required  number  of  pilots.  They  chose  the  latter 
policy,  with  the  result  that  pilots  entered  combat  increasingly  ill- 
trained.  Faced  with  thoroughly  trained  American  and  British  pilots, 
these  replacements  fought  at  a disadvantage,  which  helps  explain  the 
increasing  rate  of  attrition  imposed  on  the  GAF.  The  consequent  rise 
in  the  demand  for  replacements  simply  completed  the  vicious  cycle.83 

It  was,  however,  only  in  the  spring  of  1944,  in  March  to  be  specific, 
that  the  deterioration  in  quality  of  the  German  pilots  first  became 
really  apparent.  Before  that  date  the  GAF  had  always  been  able  to 
maintain  a sufficient  number  of  experienced  pilots  in  their  main  line  of 
defense  to  give  the  Allied  attackers  stiff  battles,  not  to  say  a few  re- 
sounding defeats.  But  the  course  of  events  was  working  progressively 

* Auswertung  der  Einsatzbereitsch  der  fiiegenden  Verb.,  cited  above,  offers  inter- 
esting evidence  as  to  allotments  to  combat  units  during  the  summer  months  of  high 
production.  Luftflotte  Reich,  which  was  almost  wholly  concerned  with  defending 
Germany  against  Allied  heavy  bombers,  received  in  June  520  Me-i09’s  and  237  FW-ipo’s, 
in  July  387  Me-iop’s  and  137  FW-i9o’s,  in  August  272  Me-io9’s  and  167  FW-ipo’s.  Luft- 
flotte 3,  which  faced  the  Allied  forces  in  France  and  Belgium,  received  in  June  485 
Me-i09’s  and  267  FW-i9o’s,  in  July  283  Me-iop’s  and  229  FW-i9o’s,  and  in  August 
177  Me-io9’s  and  21 1 FW-i9o’s.  The  same  source  indicates,  however,  that  Luftflotte  3 
had  available  and  in  a state  of  readiness  in  June  287  single-engine  fighters  and  89  night 
fighters.  In  July  the  figures  were  244  and  404,  respectively.  For  August  324  single- 
engine fighters  are  listed  and  for  September  296,  but  no  figures  are  given  for  either  of 
these  months  as  to  the  number  of  night  fighters.  This  source  shows  strength  for  Luft- 
flotte Reich  as  follows: 

June  287  SE  fighters,  103  TE  fighters,  and  322  night  fighters 

July  31 1 “ 257  “ 102  “ 

Aug.  273  “ ...  “ 418 

Sept.  420  “ ...  “ 665  “ 

62 


BIG  W E E K 


against  the  Germans  and  for  the  Allies.  The  attack  on  oil  resources 
began  in  the  late  spring  and  summer  of  1944.  The  German  high  com- 
mand was  then  shown  the  full  extent  of  its  mistakes,  for  its  pilots, 
whose  training  had  been  skimped  in  an  effort  to  save  oil,  were  unable 
to  make  use  of  the  huge  production  of  aircraft  to  stop  the  destruction 
of  the  remaining  oil  supply.84 

This  pilot  problem  again  calls  attention  to  the  importance  of  the  air 
fighting  during  the  spring  of  1 944.  It  was  as  a result  of  the  air  battles, 
especially  those  of  the  Big  Week,  that  the  GAF  was  for  the  first  time 
forced  to  admit  defeat.  Except  for  the  last  quarter  of  1943,  the  German 
fighter  force  had  been  suffering  a steadily  increasing  number  of  losses 
since  the  beginning  of  the  CBO.  The  vast  majority  of  those  losses,  and 
almost  the  entire  increase,  occurred  on  the  western  front  and  in  de- 
fense of  Germany’s  industrial  heart.89  By  March  the  ability  of  the 
GAF  to  defend  the  Reich  and  engage  in  combat  on  anything  like  equal 
terms  with  Allied  bombers  and  fighter  forces  had  passed  its  marginal 
point  and  was  steadily  deteriorating  whereas  the  capabilities  of  the 
Allies  were  improving.  If  the  German  losses  sustained  during  this 
critical  period  were  less  than  claimed  by  the  American  fighter  pilots 
and  bomber  crews  (Goering  said  they  were  usually  only  about  one- 
third  as  large  as  the  claims),86  the  fact  remains  that  the  GAF  was  losing 
an  increasing  number  of  planes  and  pilots.  The  GAF  was  swamped 
by  a force  superior  both  in  numbers  and  in  quality.  If  it  was  not  de- 
stroyed—and  it  continued  in  fact  to  be  capable  of  occasional  bursts  of 
extreme  energy— it  nevertheless  suffered  in  February  and  March  1944 
a significant  defeat. 

The  principal  credit  for  this  defeat  in  the  air  has  rightly  been  given 
to  the  American  long-range  fighter  escort,  but  it  is  also  true  of  course 
that  the  long-range  fighter  force  could  not  by  itself  have  carried  the 
battle  to  the  enemy.  It  was  in  a frantic  effort  to  defend  the  industries 
of  the  Reich  from  the  heavy  bomber  that  the  GAF  had  been  given 
high,  if  belated,  priority  in  production  and  reorganized  into  an  almost 
exclusively  defensive  force.  The  German  pilots  whenever  possible 
avoided  combat  with  the  escort  fighters.  The  Allied  victory  in  the  air 
in  early  1944,  important  as  it  was,  must  be  considered  in  the  last  analy- 
sis a by-product  of  the  strategic  bombing  offensive. 

It  is  difficult,  however,  to  escape  the  conclusion  that  the  air  battles 
did  more  to  defeat  the  Luftwaffe  than  did  the  destruction  of  the  air- 
craft factories.  Recognition  of  this  fact  must  not,  of  course,  lead  the 
unwary  to  overlook  the  effects  of  that  destruction.  It  has  been  pointed 

<'>3 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


out  above  that  the  February  bombings  deprived  the  GAF  of  a sub- 
stantial number  of  fighter  planes  at  a time  when  they  were  badly 
needed  and  that  in  forcing  the  German  aircraft  industry  to  expedite 
dispersal  of  its  factories  they  caused  considerable  indirect  loss  of  pro- 
duction and,  what  is  even  more  important,  left  the  industry  extremely 
vulnerable  to  any  dislocation  of  transport  facilities.  When  that  dislo- 
cation finally  came  about  as  a result  of  the  concentrated  attack  on 
transportation,  it  contributed  more  than  anything  else  to  the  complete 
breakdown  of  the  aircraft  industry.  The  1943  attacks,  especially  con- 
sidering the  weight  of  effort  applied,  were  even  more  effective,  because 
the  industry  had  not  at  that  time  begun  serious  dispersal  and  was  conse- 
quently more  vulnerable  to  precision  attack.  Finally  it  must  be  remem- 
bered that  the  German  fighter  forces  lost  the  decisive  air  battles  of 
early  1944  in  an  effort  to  protect  those  industries  from  bombing.  Theirs 
was  a desperate  effort  prompted  by  what  the  German  high  command 
certainly  considered  a desperate  peril. 

Hindsight  nevertheless  searches  for  the  answer  to  certain  trouble- 
some questions.  Was  a campaign  against  the  fighter  factories  and  ball- 
bearing plants  the  most  effective  use  of  strategic  air  power  during  the 
pre-invasion  phases  of  the  CBO?  If,  despite  the  bombings,  the  aircraft 
industry  in  fact  expanded  beyond  the  point  where  its  products  could 
be  put  effectively  into  battle— if,  in  other  words,  the  bottleneck  existed 
not  in  production  but  in  trained  pilots— how  much  good  was  done  by 
merely  delaying  that  production  program?  Since  oil  proved  in  the  long 
run  to  be  the  Achilles  heel  of  the  Nazi  war  machine,  and  since  the 
entire  chemical  complex  surrounding  the  production  of  synthetic  oil 
has  been  found  to  have  constituted  probably  the  most  vulnerable  ob- 
jective in  the  enemy  economy,  might  oil  not  have  been  attacked  profit- 
ably at  an  earlier  date— possibly  in  place  of  the  all-out  campaign  against 
the  aircraft  industry,  certainly  in  place  of  that  against  the  ball-bearing 
industry?  Would  the  GAF  have  reacted  just  as  vigorously  to  an  attack 
on  oil  and  chemicals  as  it  did  in  defense  of  those  latter  industries?  The 
answers  to  these  questions  as  to  all  “what  would  have  happened  if” 
questions  will  always  be  open  to  some  debate;  nor  is  it  the  function  of 
this  chapter  to  answer  them.  The  opinion  has,  however,  been  expressed 
in  an  earlier  section  of  this  history*  that,  had  Allied  intelligence  under- 
stood how  closely  integrated  were  the  oil,  synthetic  rubber,  and  the 
chemical  industries,  how  vulnerable  a target  system  that  complex  pre- 
sented, and  how  far-reaching  would  have  been  the  effects  of  substantial 

* See  Vol.  II,  362-  63. 

64 


BIG  WEEK 


damage  to  it,  the  weight  of  the  CBO  might  have  been  turned  in  that 
direction  at  an  earlier  date,  possibly  with  decisive  effect.  The  results 
ultimately  achieved  by  the  attack  on  oil  might  have  appeared  much 
sooner.  There  is  little  doubt,  moreover,  but  that  the  GAF  would  have 
reacted  as  fully  to  such  a campaign  as  to  the  attack  on  the  aircraft  in- 
dustry, and  would  have  suffered  as  decisive  a defeat  in  the  air  as  it 
actually  sustained  in  defense  of  that  industry. 

Even  within  the  top-priority  aircraft  industry  there  is  reason  to 
doubt  the  wisdom  of  placing  airframes  above  aeroengines  as  the  pre- 
ferred objective.  In  this  instance,  however,  it  must  be  borne  in  mind 
that  the  choice  of  airframes  was  dictated  in  part  at  least  by  the  ne- 
cessity of  producing  quick  results.  By  1944,  especially,  the  short  time 
remaining  before  OVERLORD  forced  the  Allied  air  planners  to  think 
in  terms  of  denying  the  enemy  planes  coming  off  the  assembly  line  in 
the  immediate  future  rather  than  to  plan  a campaign  against  the  earlier 
stages  of  aircraft  manufacture  which  might  cut  off  the  flow  of  planes 
six  months  later.  If  the  criticism  of  this  choice  is  valid,  and  it  is  the 
testimony  of  most  German  authorities  that  it  is,87  it  applies  particu- 
larly to  the  1943  phases  of  the  bomber  offensive  rather  than  to  the  final 
pre-invasion  phase  and  to  the  operations  of  the  Big  Week. 

Faulty  intelligence  also  accounts  in  part  for  a serious  failure  in  con- 
ducting the  daylight  offensive.  Generally  speaking,  follow-up  attacks 
were  not  made  soon  enough  after  initial  successful  bombings.  German 
industrial  authorities  testified  that  they  feared  more  than  anything  a 
series  of  heavy  attacks  timed  in  such  a way  as  to  subject  a plant  to  re- 
newed damage  before  salvage  reconstruction  or  dispersal  could  be  suc- 
cessfully accomplished.88  This  is  particularly  true  of  the  attacks  made 
in  1943  against  the  aircraft  and  antifriction  bearing  industries.  There 
is  in  these  instances,  of  course,  another  factor  to  consider:  the  Eighth 
Air  Force  either  had  not  the  strength  or  was  not  able  to  find  favorable 
weather  opportunities  to  follow  up  some  of  its  initial  successes.  But 
it  remains  a matter  of  real  doubt  whether  indecisive  strategic  bombing 
attacks  against  vitally  important  industries,  no  matter  how  successful 
they  may  be  as  single  missions,  are  strategically  wise.  They  merely  tip 
the  attacker’s  hand  and  prompt  just  the  sort  of  countermeasures  which, 
in  fact,  eventually  secured  the  German  aircraft  industry  from  the  worst 
direct  effects  of  bombing. 

This  conclusion  raises  another  problem  of  importance  in  evaluating 
the  pre-invasion  phases  of  the  daylight  bombing  offensive.  Through 
most  of  1943  the  Eighth  Air  Force  did  not  have  enough  strength,  either 

65 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


in  bombers  or  (more  serious)  in  long-range  escort  to  do  the  job  as- 
signed to  it.  Its  efforts  were  often  for  that  reason  scattered  and  inde- 
cisive. Nor  did  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  prior  to  April  1944  provide  the 
reinforcement  its  creators  had  had  in  mind.  That  was  not  entirely 
the  fault  of  the  air  planners.  The  ground  campaign  in  Italy  sapped 
much  of  its  strength.  But  operations  from  Mediterranean  bases  failed 
to  provide  the  hoped-for  release  from  weather  restrictions.  Weather 
over  the  Alps  and  over  the  priority  south  German  targets  turned  out 
during  the  winter  months  to  be  quite  as  bad  for  visual  bombing  mis- 
sions as  that  encountered  by  the  Eighth  Air  Force.  Moreover,  coordi- 
nated attacks  by  the  two  forces,  that  simultaneous  pounding  of  the 
enemy  from  two  directions  about  which  so  much  was  said  in  the  plan- 
ning discussions,  proved,  except  in  a very  general  sense,  an  illusion. 
The  Big  Week  witnessed  the  first  of  such  coordinated  missions  actually 
carried  out,  although  on  several  earlier  dates  they  had  been  planned. 
No  further  coordinated  operations  were  attempted  before  April.  After 
that  date  plans  for  closely  coordinated  operations  lost  much  of  their 
urgency.  The  GAF  no  longer  constituted  a problem  of  overwhelming 
importance,  and  the  two  daylight  bombing  forces  could  plan  their 
operations  relatively  free  from  the  tactical  need  of  splitting  the  enemy 
air  defenses.  That  the  creation  of  a strategic  force  to  operate  from 
Italy  paid  large  dividends  is  conclusively  demonstrated  by  the  brilliant 
campaign  begun  in  April  against  the  Ploesti  oil  refineries.  But  the  fact 
remains  that  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  was  not  able  to  contribute  as  sig- 
nificantly to  the  pre-invasion  phase  of  the  CBO  as  had  been  expected.89 

So  much  for  the  shortcomings  of  the  American  strategic  bombing 
effort  in  this  pre-invasion  phase  of  the  CBO.  Because  they  require 
careful  analysis,  sometimes  of  factors  that  have  only  recently  come  to 
light,  they  take  more  pages  and  thought  than  the  successes.  They  may 
also  prevent  some  observers  from  seeing  the  larger  and  relatively  sim- 
pler fact  that  the  daylight  bombing  offensive  did  succeed.  True,  it 
failed  to  achieve  all  the  objectives  set  forth  in  the  original  CBO  Plan; 
the  task  of  defeating  the  Luftwaffe  became  finally  an  all-absorbing 
one.  Possibly,  too,  it  might  have  achieved  even  this  “intermediate” 
objective  more  efficiently.  But  in  conclusion  let  the  reader  bear  well 
in  mind  that  by  1 April  1944  the  GAF  was  a defeated  force,  and  that  in 
bringing  about  its  defeat  the  bomber  crews  and  fighter  pilots  of  the 
Eighth  and  Fifteenth  Air  Forces  played  a large,  indeed  a decisive,  part. 


66 


CHAPTER  3 


******  ***** 


PLAN  FOR  OVERLORD 

AS  THE  Combined  Bomber  Offensive  approached  the  terminal 
/\  point  set  in  the  original  plan,  the  question  of  how  next  the 
J £ V heavy  bombers  should  be  employed— a subject  already  under 
vigorous  debate— took  on  a new  urgency.  Paralleling  the  discussion  of 
objectives  and  targets  was  an  equally  pressing  problem  of  command 
and,  as  would  be  expected,  the  two  questions  were  intimately  joined 
one  to  the  other.  Time,  if  nothing  else,  argued  that  the  issues  must  soon 
be  settled,  for  there  remained  only  two  months,  more  or  less,  between 
the  termination  of  the  CBO  and  the  invasion  of  France.  The  over- 
shadowing importance  of  that  impending  invasion  naturally  held  first 
place  in  the  minds  of  all  leaders  and  governed  the  conclusions  they 
reached. 


Plans  for  the  Invasion 

Planning  for  OVERLORD  itself  had  assumed  a more  urgent  aspect 
after  the  unavoidable  interruptions  occasioned  by  the  shuttle  of  new 
commanders  between  the  Mediterranean  and  the  United  Kingdom  at 
the  turn  of  the  year.  General  Eisenhower’s  headquarters  was  located 
on  the  southern  outskirts  of  London  at  Bushy  Park,  Teddington,  where 
USSTAF  also  had  its  headquarters.*  To  each  of  the  various  subordi- 
nate headquarters  Eisenhower  assigned  the  responsibility  for  working 
out  detailed  plans  pertinent  to  its  own  organization,  but  tendencies 
toward  departmentalization  of  the  work  were  overcome  by  a remark- 
able spirit  of  informal  cooperation  which  received  every  encourage- 

* Because  of  a mischance  more  comical  than  serious,  the  U.S.  authorities  entrusted 
with  construction  of  headquarters  for  SHAEF  confused  Bushy  Park  and  Bushey  Heath. 
The  latter,  which  had  been  chosen  for  the  site,  was  close  to  Leigh-Mallory’s  head- 
quarters while  Bushy  Park  was  miles  away.  (See  Sir  Frederick  E.  Morgan,  Overture 
to  Overlord  [New  York,  1950],  pp.  256-57.) 

67 


T H E ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


inent  from  the  supreme  commander.1  Ground  force  plans  were  devised 
for  the  most  part  at  Gen.  Bernard  L.  Montgomery’s  headquarters  in 
St.  Paul’s  School,  London,  where  air  and  naval  officers  were  usually 
on  hand  to  represent  their  commands.  AEAF’s  pre-invasion  study  was 
performed  at  Leigh-Mallory’s  headquarters  in  Stanmore  and  in  Nor- 
folk House  in  London  where  a staff  remained  until  May  1944,  when 
all  air  planning  machinery  was  finally  transferred  to  Stanmore.2  Offi- 
cers of  the  Ninth  Air  Force  participated  in  AEAF  planning,  drew  up 
programs  peculiar  to  their  organizations,  and  kept  in  touch  with  logisti- 
cal and  ground  force  agencies.  An  AEAF  group  eventually  known  as 
the  Combined  Operational  Planning  Committee  studied  air  support  for 
the  invasion  while  so-called  planning  syndicates  specialized  on  such 
subjects  as  beach  appreciation,  weather,  security,  intercommunication, 
build-up,  and  many  others.3 

While  the  strategic  air  forces  maintained  liaison  officers  with  other 
commands,  it  was  not  until  General  Spaatz  complained  on  15  April 
1944  about  the  exclusion  of  USSTAF  from  OVERLORD  planning 
that  relations  became  close.4  That  situation  and  the  inconvenient  geo- 
graphical separation  of  the  planning  agencies  were  probably  the  major 
weaknesses  of  the  pre-invasion  establishment.5  Also,  ground  force  com- 
manders sometimes  found  it  awkward  to  deal  with  the  several  parallel 
air  organizations.6  Nevertheless,  the  various  headquarters  and  their 
staffs  performed  their  exacting  labors  on  schedule  and  always  in  the 
utmost  secrecy.  The  extraordinarily  high  degree  of  cooperation  that 
prevailed  among  the  two  nations  and  the  several  services  was  a matter 
of  sober  pride  and  of  great  credit  to  all  concerned. 

The  COSSAC  study  OVERLORD*  remained  the  fundamental 
document  for  invasion  planning.  Tl^at  plan  had  outlined  an  initial 
assault  by  three  divisions  on  the  Caen-Bayeux  sector  of  the  Normandy 
coast  to  take  place  about  1 May  1944.  Then  would  come  the  seizure 
of  Cherbourg  and  the  Brittany  ports  and,  after  sufficient  build-up  of 
forces,  the  capture  of  Paris  and  the  Seine  ports.  After  that  the  Com- 
bined Chiefs  of  Staff  would  have  to  set  new  objectives,  for  OVER- 
LORD  was  not  of  itself  an  operation  designed  to  win  the  war.  The 
mission  of  the  air  forces  was  to  overcome  the  disadvantages  inherent 
in  an  overwater  attack  on  a well-protected  coast.  So  essential  was  this 
function  that  air  considerations  fairly  dictated  the  choice  of  the  in- 
vasion site  to  some  point  between  Flushing,  in  the  Netherlands,  and 

* See  above,  p.  3. 

68 


PLAN  FOR  OVERLORD 


Cherbourg.  In  this  area  the  Pas-de-Calais  sector  clearly  offered  the 
maximum  opportunities  to  exploit  Allied  air  capabilities,  particularly 
where  the  short-range  Spitfires  were  concerned.  But  the  Pas-de-Calais 
was  the  best  defended  region  precisely  because  it  was  the  most  vulner- 
able. Also,  Allied  ground  forces  would  find  it  difficult  to  expand  from 
the  beaches  there  to  ports  as  distant  as  Antwerp  and  Le  Havre.  Second 
best  from  the  air  point  of  view,  but  far  more  promising  for  the  ground 
forces,  were  the  beaches  near  Caen.  This  was  the  least  defended  area 
within  Allied  reach,  the  soil  was  suitable  for  quick  airfield  develop- 
ment, and  it  was  near  the  excellent  port  of  Cherbourg.7  All  in  all,  the 
majority  of  invasion  planners  from  early  1942  on  had  regarded  the 
Cotentin  beaches  as  the  most  inviting  point  for  the  assault,  notwith- 
standing their  considerable  distance  from  English  bases.  And  there 
was  no  reason  afterward  to  regret  this  choice. 

A favorable  air  situation  above  the  invasion  routes  and  the  landing 
beaches  was  one  of  the  essentials  laid  down  for  OVERLORD  in 
COSSAC’s  plan.  This  required,  first  of  all,  a degree  of  success  by  the 
POINTBLANK  campaign  in  reducing  drastically  German  aircraft 
production  and  in  compelling  the  enemy  to  concentrate  his  surviving 
fighters  in  the  Reich  instead  of  deploying  them  to  meet  the  invading 
forces.  Attrition  of  the  German  Air  Force  might  be  expected  from  the 
almost  daily  missions  into  enemy  territory  which  would  exact  their 
price  from  Me-iop’s  and  FW-no’s  that  attacked  the  bomber  fleets. 
But  it  would  not  be  enough  to  choke  off  aircraft  production  and  shoot 
down  fighters,  for  by  prudent  hoarding  the  Germans  still  might  pos- 
sess 1 ,600  airplanes  in  May  1 944  to  contest  the  invasion.8  Thus,  all  air- 
fields within  a 150-mile  radius  of  Caen  should  be  so  disrupted  that  the 
Germans  would  be  forced  to  operate  from  bases  as  far  back  from  the 
invasion  beaches  as  the  English  airfields  from  which  the  Allies  would 
fly.  In  addition,  the  enemy’s  control  and  air  warning  systems  would 
have  to  be  dislocated  by  jamming  and  by  the  bombing  of  key  instal- 
lations.9 Aside  from  such  specific  considerations,  COSSAC’s  planners 
were  fully  aware  that  the  disintegration  of  Germany’s  cities  and  indus- 
tries as  a result  of  the  air  offensive  would  be  a major  if  indirect  contri- 
bution to  OVERLORD.10 

Given  a favorable  air  situation,  the  invasion  of  Normandy  would 
become  possible,  which  it  would  not  be  if  the  enemy  enjoyed  air 
supremacy.  COSSAC  sketched  out  many  important  tasks  for  Allied 
air  power  shortly  before  and  during  the  Channel  crossing.  Air  recon- 

69 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

naissance  would  have  to  be  thorough.  When  D-day  came,  troop  car- 
riers would  transport  two-thirds  of  one  airborne  division  to  seize  Caen 
and  near-by  river  crossings  in  the  initial  assault.11  Bombers  would  con- 
duct a short  but  very  heavy  attack  on  beach  defenses  just  before  the 
landing  craft  touched  France.12  A vast  umbrella  of  Allied  fighters 
would  protect  the  crammed  LST’s  and  the  crowded  beaches  from 
enemy  air  forces.  During  the  remainder  of  D-day  bombers  would  oper- 
ate against  hostile  communications  and  airfields  and  would  delay  and 
harass  land  reinforcements.13  Allied  signal  units  would  get  on  the  far 
shore  as  quickly  as  possible,14  and  air  engineers  would  begin  the  con- 
struction of  landing  strips  so  that  fighter-bombers  could  furnish  direct 
support  to  the  ground  forces.15  In  all,  the  COSSAC  plan  of  1943  en- 
visaged most  of  the  air  tasks  for  OVERLORD  and  provided  a pattern 
for  more  detailed  planning.  Important  changes  were  made  in  the  light 
of  new  conditions  and  altered  concepts,  but  the  excellence  of  this  basic 
invasion  plan  was  widely  appreciated.16 

After  the  principal  officers  who  were  to  lead  the  invasion  took  up 
their  duties  in  England  they  insisted  upon  several  significant  revisions 
of  the  COSSAC  plan.  Since  his  first  reading  of  the  outline,  General 
Eisenhower  had  thought  that  the  three-division  assault  was  insufficient 
and  that  the  initial  landing  was  in  too  much  of  a column  and  on  too 
narrow  a front.17  Other  top  leaders  also  held  this  view,  and  at  the  first 
formal  meeting  of  the  supreme  commander  and  his  commanders  in 
chief  on  21  January  1944  it  was  agreed  to  take  steps  to  strengthen  the 
assault.18  Accordingly,  Eisenhower  secured  permission  from  the  Com- 
bined Chiefs  of  Staff  to  employ  five  divisions  in  the  initial  landing.  This 
meant  that  the  front  would  have  to  be  extended  to  the  Ouistreham 
beaches  in  the  east  and  the  Varreville  beaches  on  the  Cotentin  Penin- 
sula in  the  west.  Leigh-Mallory  readily  accepted  the  change,  even 
though  he  thought  it  would  become  necessary  for  the  air  forces  to 
provide  two  canopies  of  fighters  instead  of  the  single  one  contemplated 
in  the  original  plan.19 

But  differences  of  opinion  arose  when  the  ground  commanders  de- 
manded that  airborne  forces  drop  behind  the  Varreville  (UTAH) 
coast  line  prior  to  the  seaborne  assault  in  order  to  block  German  rein- 
forcements and  counterattacks  and  to  facilitate  American  advances  in 
the  direction  of  Cherbourg.  Leigh-Mallory  predicted  that  casualties 
in  such  an  attempt  would  be  prohibitive,  later  estimating  that  perhaps 
three-fourths  of  the  paratroops  would  be  lost.20  Churchill,  Eisenhower, 


70 


PLAN  FOR  OVERLORD 


Bradley,  Montgomery,  and  Brereton  were  not  convinced  by  the  air 
commander  in  chief  and  vigorous  efforts  were  undertaken  to  procure 
more  air  transports  to  strengthen  the  airborne  operation.  It  was  several 
months  before  final  plans  for  the  massive  drop  could  be  devised,  and 
Leigh-Mallory’s  opposition  to  the  Varreville  assault  did  not  abate.  On 
another  airborne  issue  the  air  commander  in  chief  had  his  way.  This 
was  in  abandoning  the  COSSAC  proposal  to  drop  British  paratroops 
into  Caen;  instead,  bridges  on  the  Caen  Canal  and  the  Orne  River,  but 
not  the  town  itself,  would  be  seized  by  this  force.21  Meanwhile,  Head- 
quarters AAF  submitted  to  Eisenhower  over  General  Marshall’s  signa- 
ture a proposal  to  employ  several  divisions  in  a gigantic  drop  not  far 
from  Paris  just  before  and  on  D-day  to  divert  the  Germans  from  the 
beachhead  and  to  function  strategically  as  a type  of  mass  vertical  en- 
velopment.*22 But  General  Eisenhower,  along  with  Montgomery  and 
Bradley,  regarded  the  plan  as  too  ambitious  and  felt  that  such  a force 
might  be  immobile  if  it  landed  deep  in  France  before  the  coast  line  was 
secured.23  With  some  regret  the  AAF  discarded  the  project. 

The  five-division  assault  scheme  underscored  that  war-long  problem 
of  the  western  allies:  the  shortage  of  landing  craft.  One  method  of  ob- 
taining more  LST’s  was  to  postpone  D-day  from  i to  31  May,  thus 
allowing  more  time  for  them  to  arrive  from  British  and  American  ship- 
yards. That  this  delay  would  mean  risking  less  favorable  weather  con- 
ditions for  OVERLORD  was  a disadvantage  General  Eisenhower  felt 
it  necessary  to  accept.24  And,  of  course,  there  was  the  danger  that  the 
Russians  might  be  disconcerted.  Another  way  to  help  fill  up  the  deficit 
in  landing  craft  was  to  withdraw  LST’s  from  the  projected  operation 
ANVIL,  the  invasion  of  southern  France  supposed  to  be  launched 
about  the  same  time  as  OVERLORD.  The  British  strongly  urged  the 
cancellation  of  ANVIL  all  along,25  but  the  Americans  were  willing 
only  to  postpone  the  southern  invasion  about  sixty  days.  The  delay  of 
OVERLORD  and  ANVIL  (subsequently  DRAGOON)  was  a help 
to  the  air  forces,  which  had  more  time  for  training  and  rehearsals,  stra- 
tegic bombing,  and  pre-invasion  operations. 

The  re-evaluation  of  invasion  problems  in  the  light  of  the  wider 
front  and  the  later  target  date  appeared  in  the  Initial  Joint  Plan, 
NEPTUNE,  of  1 February  1944.  The  code  name  NEPTUNE,  inci- 

* General  Morgan  has  indicated  that  the  inspiration  for  this  proposal  traced  in  no 
small  part  to  General  Kenney’s  success  with  the  airdrop  at  Nadzab  in  September  1943. 
(See  tnis  seri  s,  Vol.  IV,  184-86;  Morgan,  Overture  to  Overlord,  pp.  203-5.) 

71 


T HE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

dentally,  almost  supplanted  OVERLORD  in  theater  usage;  it  denoted 
a more  restricted  phase  of  the  operation,  the  Channel  crossing  and 
seizure  of  the  beachhead,  and  also  it  applied  to  the  Normandy  area 
itself.  Prepared  by  air,  ground,  and  naval  staffs,  the  Initial  Joint  Plan 
rounded  out  many  details  which  had  been  omitted  or  vaguely  treated 
in  the  COSSAC  study,  such  as  planning  procedures,  command  organi- 
zation, training  exercises,  beach  studies,  build-up  and  mounting  of 
forces,  and  various  other  subjects.  The  definitions  of  air  tasks  were 
in  general  conformity  with  those  set  forth  in  the  COSSAC  document 
except  that  they  were  more  precise. 

In  several  instances,  however,  the  Initial  Joint  Plan  embodied  altered 
conceptions  of  air  force  employment,  reflecting  the  ideas  of  Air  Chief 
Marshal  Leigh-Mallory.  One  paragraph,  which  was  promptly  deleted, 
gave  him  control  of  strategic  air  operations  in  the  weeks  before  the 
landing.26  Furthermore,  the  bombing  offensive  against  the  Reich  was 
implicitly  subordinated  to  preliminary  air  activities  in  support  of  the 
invasion27  because  Leigh-Mallory  was  convinced  that  air  supremacy 
would  be  won  at  the  time  of  the  landing  and  not  by  continuance  of  the 
CBO-type  of  operations.  Then,  the  prominent  place  assigned  in  the 
Initial  Joint  Plan  to  air  attacks  on  Hitler’s  secret- weapon  installations28 
was  not  in  accord  with  most  AAF  estimates  of  the  danger  itself  and 
the  probable  effectiveness  of  such  neutralization.*  Finally,  the  plan 
called  upon  the  air  forces  to  impose  a general  paralysis  on  the  German 
railway  system  from  the  Atlantic  coast  to  the  Rhine.29  Very  exten- 
sive disruption  would  be  necessary,  for  the  network  was  thick  and 
complex  and  the  Germans  had  at  their  disposal  abundant  reserves  in 
labor  and  rolling  stock. 

The  Transportation  Issue 

The  proposal  to  reduce  drastically  the  rail  capacity  of  western 
Europe  brought  about  a protracted  controversy  on  the  proper  use 
of  air  power  in  support  of  OVERLORD.  Only  after  an  exhaustive 
examination  of  other  possibilities  was  this  program,  the  so-called  trans- 
portation plan,  accepted  by  General  Eisenhower  and  finally  imple- 
mented. The  project  involved  diverting  a large  proportion  of  Eighth 
Air  Force  and  RAF  Bomber  Command  effort  from  strategic  targets 
in  Germany  to  pre-invasion  objectives  in  France  and  Belgium.  Perhaps 
it  delayed  the  opening  of  the  oil  campaign  which  ultimately  proved 

* See  below,  pp.  97-104. 


72 


PLAN  FOR  OVERLORD 


so  decisive  that  men  wondered  why  it  had  not  been  begun  sooner. 
For  a time  the  transportation  plan  threatened  to  jeopardize  the  attain- 
ment of  air  supremacy  before  D-day.  Also,  it  complicated  the  un- 
settled questions  of  control  of  the  strategic  air  forces  and  required  a 
painful  decision  with  regard  to  civilian  casualties  in  the  occupied  coun- 
tries. Long  after  D-day,  there  remained  the  sobering  question  as  to 
whether  the  results  of  the  plan  were  commensurate  with  the  cost  in 
air  effort  and  the  ruin  inflicted  on  French  and  Belgian  cities. 

There  was  no  question  about  the  need  to  cripple  the  railway  system 
in  France  to  the  point  where  the  Germans  could  not  build  up  their 
forces  by  land  as  fast  as  the  Allies  could  pour  theirs  in  by  sea.  But  the 
method  for  accomplishing  this  aim  previously  had  been  expected,  in 
the  COSSAC  plan  and  in  other  pre-invasion  proposals,  to  be  interdic- 
tion: line-cutting,  strafing,  bridge-breaking,  and  the  destruction  of  a 
few  rail  focal  points— all  part  of  the  accepted  pattern  of  isolating  a 
battlefield.30  Now,  however,  Leigh-Mallory  was  proposing  a long- 
term program  of  attrition  to  wear  down  and  ruin  the  enemy’s  railway 
capacity  by  attacks  on  rail  centers  in  French  and  Belgian  towns,  attacks 
which  would  destroy  rail  yards,  sidings,  stations,  sheds,  repair  shops, 
roundhouses,  turntables,  signal  systems,  switches,  locomotives,  and 
rolling  stock.  Through  this  plan  he  expected  to  produce  a railway 
chaos  in  western  Europe,  and  by  concentrating  on  the  repair  organi- 
zation the  Allies  could  render  the  Germans  helpless  to  recover  from 
this  destruction.31  The  authors  of  the  transportation  plan  may  have 
been  several  civilian  specialists  in  the  Air  Ministry,  notably  Solly 
Zuckerman  and  E.  D.  Brant,  who  had  been  meditating  about  such  a 
program  for  some  time.32  Or  possibly  it  was  Air  Chief  Marshal  Tedder, 
Eisenhower’s  deputy  commander,  who  had  supervised  a less  ambitious 
campaign  of  this  nature  in  the  Mediterranean  theater.33  At  any  rate, 
Leigh-Mallory  and  Tedder  were  convinced  by  January  1944  that  the 
transportation  plan  was  vital  to  OVERLORD. 

The  plan  took  more  definite  shape  in  the  meetings  of  the  AEAF 
bombing  committee,  where  Leigh-Mallory,  Brant,  and  Zuckerman  dis- 
covered more  and  more  advantages  in  it  notwithstanding  the  frigidly 
unreceptive  attitude  of  the  British  generals  from  SHAEF  and  the 
Eighth  Air  Force  representative.34  Zuckerman  likened  the  railway  net- 
work to  a nervous  system,  damage  to  any  part  of  which  would  affect 
the  whole.  He  believed  the  attrition  campaign  would  require  ninety 
days  and  that  it  should  bear  most  heavily  on  the  routine  rail  servicing 


73 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

centers  in  France  and  Belgium.35  The  advocates  estimated  at  first  that 
33,  then  40,  later  79,  and  finally  10 1 railway  centers  would  have  to  be 
bombed.  A veritable  railway  desert  would  be  the  result!  Even  if  all 
traffic  were  not  brought  to  a standstill,  what  was  left  could  be  canal- 
ized so  that  it  could  be  strafed  by  fighters  or  stranded  by  line  cuts. 
Thus  the  Germans  would  be  unable  to  bring  reinforcements  into  Nor- 
mandy; nor  could  they  supply  their  troops  that  would  be  isolated  there. 
Leigh-Mallory  insisted  that  this  method  of  paralyzing  German  trans- 
portation was  far  preferable  to  the  conventional  interdiction  program, 
for  the  latter  gambled  too  much  on  good  weather  shortly  before  D-day 
and  might  reveal  to  the  enemy  the  proposed  invasion  site.36 

An  AEAF  study  on  the  employment  of  bomber  forces  in  OVER- 
LORD,  produced  on  12  February  1944,  brought  out  more  points  in 
favor  of  the  transportation  plan.37  Its  statistics  seemed  to  show  that 
two-thirds  of  the  railway  capacity  of  western  Europe  was  devoted  to 
German  military  traffic.  Any  significant  damage,  therefore,  would  be 
calamitous  to  the  enemy.  Furthermore,  the  rail  centers  were  accessible 
targets,  most  of  them  being  in  range  of  fighter  escort  and  ground  radar 
facilities.  Nor  were  they  large  and  resistant.  Few  of  them  covered  as 
much  as  a 500-acre  area,  and  an  average  of  four  500-pound  bombs  per 
acre  might  suffice  to  turn  a rail  center  into  a heap  of  ruined  trackage 
and  equipment  and  burned-out  facilities.  That  the  transportation  plan 
was  within  Allied  capabilities  seemed  entirely  likely.  Between  Febru- 
ary 1944  and  D-day  bombers  could  drop  some  108,000  tons  of  bombs, 
and  transportation  targets  would  probably  require  only  45,000  tons. 
Thus  air  effort  would  be  available  for  a last-minute  interdiction  pro- 
gram, should  it  prove  necessary,  and  for  other  target  systems.  But  the 
only  difficulty  with  respect  to  these  calculations  was  the  evident  fact 
that  the  tactical  air  forces  could  not  by  themselves  carry  out  the  trans- 
portation program.  Clearly,  most  of  the  tonnage  would  have  to  be 
delivered  by  USSTAF  and  RAF  Bomber  Command  heavies,  which 
would  mean  shifting  them  from  strategic  attacks  on  German  industry 
to  pre-invasion  operations  at  a much  earlier  date  than  had  been  contem- 
plated in  any  of  the  invasion  plans. 

General  Spaatz  and  Air  Chief  Marshal  Harris  of  RAF  Bomber  Com- 
mand thus  came  into  the  picture.  On  15  February  1944  the  two  com- 
manders explored  the  implications  of  the  transportation  plan  with 
Leigh-Mallory.  Spaatz  at  once  declared  that  the  whole  program  was 
at  cross  purposes  with  his  directives.38  He  felt  sure  that  it  would  divert 


74 


PLAN  FOR  OVERLORD 


the  heavy  bombers  from  vital  POINTBLANK  targets  for  a campaign 
of  dubious  value.  Most  important  of  all,  he  believed  the  transpor- 
tation plan  would  endanger  the  winning  of  air  supremacy  before  the 
landing,39  for  the  offensive  against  German  aircraft  production  was 
just  then  at  its  climax.  Air  Marshal  Harris  sided  with  Spaatz,  for  he 
thought  that  the  best  support  Bomber  Command  could  give  to  OVER- 
LORD  was  to  intensify  its  attacks  on  German  cities.  And  he  criticized 
the  transportation  plan  in  sharp  terms,  saying  that  it  was  based  on  a 
fallacy,  the  false  assumption  that  interdiction  would  not  be  effective.40 
But  Leigh-Mallory,  who  had  once  before  aroused  misgivings  in  Spaatz’s 
mind  with  his  opinion  on  the  need  for  air  supremacy  in  advance  of 
OVERLORD,*  stood  by  his  proposal.  He  made  it  clear  that  he  in- 
tended for  the  strategic  air  forces  to  begin  the  rail  center  bombings 
under  his  own  direction  by  i March  1944.41 

Apprehensive  that  the  destruction  of  German  aircraft  industries 
might  be  interrupted,  Spaatz  informed  General  Arnold,  who  replied 
that  the  transportation  plan  might  have  tragic  consequences  if  it  were 
implemented  too  early.42  The  USSTAF  commander  also  warned  Gen- 
eral Eisenhower  that  a premature  shift  of  heavy  bomber  effort  from 
strategic  targets  in  Germany  to  rail  centers  in  France  and  Belgium 
might  result  in  a battle  for  air  supremacy  over  the  beachhead  on 
D-day.43  The  supreme  commander  was  no  less  anxious  than  his  air 
officers  about  assuring  control  of  the  skies  before  the  landing,  and  he 
delayed  his  decision  for  more  than  a month.  Meanwhile,  the  strategic 
air  forces  went  ahead  with  their  campaign  against  German  aircraft  pro- 
duction and  won  a momentous  victory  which,  if  not  quite  as  over- 
whelming as  it  seemed  at  the  time,  nonetheless  guaranteed  Allied  air 
supremacy  for  the  rest  of  the  war. 

An  imposing  list  of  personalities  and  agencies  opposed  the  trans- 
portation plan  in  February  1944,  among  them  Churchill,  Sir  Alan 
Brooke,  Portal,  Doolittle,  Fred  Anderson,  the  Joint  Intelligence  Com- 
mittee, the  Ministry  of  Economic  Warfare,  and  others.  Their  argu- 
ments were  usually  along  the  lines  of  demonstrating  the  superior  effec- 
tiveness of  interdiction  to  attrition  in  attacking  a railway  system  and  of 
pointing  out  the  attractions  of  other  target  systems.  Nor  did  the  oppo- 
nents of  the  plan  overlook  the  point  that  a shattered  railway  system  in 
France  might  subsequently  hamper  the  advance  of  the  liberating  armies 
across  that  country.  SHAEF  circulated  an  analysis  by  a French  agent 

* See  above,  pp.  5,  72. 


75 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


who  contended  that  the  program  would  injure  French  civilian  traffic 
far  more  than  German  military  movements.44  A committee  composed 
mainly  of  British  railway  experts  employed  by  the  U.S.  embassy  in 
London  came  out  emphatically  in  favor  of  a short-term  interdiction 
program  on  the  ground  that  only  one-fifth  of  the  French  railway 
system  was  devoted  to  German  military  traffic45  (as  opposed  to  the 
AEAF  estimate  of  two-thirds  and  the  postwar  conclusion  of  one- 
third).46  To  wreak  any  serious  interference  upon  German  rail  com- 
munications, the  committee  believed,  some  500  rail  tenters  would  have 
to  be  demolished,  and  not  the  smaller  number  suggested  by  Leigh- 
Mallory  and  Tedder.  At  least  half  of  those  targets  were  large,  well  con- 
structed, and  generally  difficult  to  damage.  Other  opponents  raised  the 
point  that  a rail  center  was  the  worst  possible  place  to  break  a line,  for 
repairs  could  be  effected  within  two  days  at  the  most.47  How  much 
more  effective  and  easy  it  would  be  to  forego  the  attrition  program 
altogether  and  seal  off  the  Normandy  area  by  interdiction,  most  of 
the  arguments  concluded,  and  to  devote  surplus  bombing  effort  to 
worth-while  campaigns.  At  one  point  the  opponents  of  the  transporta- 
tion plan  were  so  confident  of  winning  out  they  considered  how  they 
could  extricate  Air  Chief  Marshal  Tedder  from  his  commitment  to  it 
without  embarrassing  him.48 

Spaatz’s  counterproposal  for  bomber  support  of  OVERLORD  came 
in  the  form  of  a “Plan  for  the  Completion  of  the  Combined  Bomber 
Offensive,”  which  he  submitted  to  General  Eisenhower  on  5 March 
1944.  This  study  repudiated  the  transportation  plan  with  exhaustive 
documentation,49  showing  how  it  involved  an  impossibly  large  under- 
taking and  would  not  produce  significant  military  effects  in  time  to 
benefit  the  invasion.  But  the  heart  of  the  USSTAF  plan  considered 
positive  means  for  injuring  Germany.  Now  that  the  enemy’s  air  force 
was  broken,  the  strategic  air  forces  could  attack  two  other  vital  target 
systems  that  lay  within  reach  for  the  first  time,  oil  and  rubber.60  Main- 
taining that  his  calculations  were  conservative,  Spaatz  held  that  the  air 
forces  could  bring  about  a 50  per  cent  reduction  in  German  gasoline 
supplies  within  six  months.51  From  England  heavy  bombers  could 
operate  against  synthetic  petroleum  plants  in  western  and  central  Ger- 
many, and  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  could  attack  from  its  Italian  bases 
the  important  crude  oil  refineries  in  Rumania  and  elsewhere  in  southern 
and  central  Europe.  The  effects  of  such  bombings  on  German  industry 
and  troop  mobility  on  all  fronts  would  be  so  drastic  that  the  enemy 

76 


PLAN  FOR  OVERLORD 


high  command  might  consider  whether  or  not  to  oppose  OVER- 
LORD,  or  even  to  continue  the  war.  Devoting  first-priority  effort  to 
this  oil  campaign,  the  heavy  bombers  could  police  the  German  Air 
Force  as  second  priority,  attack  rubber  and  tire  industries  as  third,  and, 
as  a last  resort,  bomb  rail  centers  in  the  Reich  whenever  bad  weather 
shielded  the  primary  objectives.  Spaatz’s  program  called  for  fifteen  days 
of  visual  effort  by  the  Eighth  and  ten  days  by  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force. 
After  fulfilling  it,  the  heavy  bombers  could  turn  their  efforts  to  direct 
tactical  support  of  the  invasion  under  a plan  which  SHAEF,  the  Air 
Ministry,  and  USSTAF  might  devise.52 

Full  of  promise  as  this  bold  proposal  was,  the  transportation  plan  was 
winning  adherents.  Leigh-Mallory  made  much  of  the  danger  of  wait- 
ing until  shortly  before  D-day  to  interdict  communications  into  Nor- 
mandy; to  take  chances  with  the  weather  in  carrying  out  a short-term 
program  seemed  to  him  an  unjustifiable  risk.53  And  the  ground  forces, 
of  course,  had  to  be  assured  of  protection  against  German  reinforce- 
ment of  the  invasion  area.  Somehow  Air  Chief  Marshal  Harris  was  won 
over  to  the  transportation  plan,54  and  he  altogether  opposed  the 
USSTAF  project  to  bomb  oil  production,  which  he  at  first  took  to  be 
another  of  the  panaceas  so  frequently  pressed  on  the  air  forces.55  Gen- 
eral Brereton  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force  was  in  favor  of  the  rail  center 
program,56  and  RAF  Chief  of  Air  Staff  Portal  began  to  lean  to  the  plan. 
Probably  the  most  effective  champion  was  the  deputy  supreme  com- 
mander, Air  Chief  Marshal  Tedder,  who  opposed  Spaatz’s  oil  program 
on  the  grounds  that  there  was  not  enough  time  before  D-day  to  damage 
production  seriously  and  that  the  tactical  air  forces  of  AEAF  and  RAF 
Bomber  Command  could  not  take  effective  part  in  such  a campaign. 
On  the  other  hand,  he  believed  that  all  air  forces  could  work  together 
successfully  in  dislocating  the  railway  system  of  western  Europe  to  the 
point  that  German  military  traffic  could  scarcely  move.57 

USSTAF  adduced  further  arguments  in  favor  of  an  oil  campaign 
and  a brief  interdiction  program.  It  contended  that  the  Germans 
needed  only  from  fifty  to  eighty  trains  per  day  to  move  their  reserves 
into  the  invasion  area— a mere  fraction  of  their  capacity  which  would 
remain  available  no  matter  how  many  rail  centers  were  destroyed. 
Spaatz  stressed  the  success  of  interdiction  in  previous  campaigns,  and 
he  predicted  that  the  Germans  would  not  even  defend  their  rail  cen- 
ters, thus  not  allowing  the  Allies  to  deplete  GAF  fighter  strength.  As 
for  Tedder’s  point  that  USSTAF,  AEAF,  and  RAF  Bomber  Command 


77 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


could  all  operate  in  fulfilling  the  transportation  plan,  Spaatz  rejoined 
that  three  wrongs  did  not  make  a right.  Nor  was  he  unmindful  of  the 
expected  high  casualties  among  friendly  civilians  who  lived  near  the 
rail  centers  in  occupied  countries  and  the  disadvantages  of  making  the 
French  railways  difficult  to  use  when  the  time  came  for  the  Allies  to  ad- 
vance toward  the  Reich.  Finally,  he  regarded  it  as  most  important  to 
open  the  oil  campaign  promptly,  since  only  fourteen  plants  were  turn- 
ing out  80  per  cent  of  Germany’s  synthetic  petroleum,  most  of  which 
was  used  for  gasoline.  Those  plants  required  no  more  bombing  effort 
than  a corresponding  number  of  rail  centers.  Yet  the  loss  of  fourteen 
synthetic  oil  plants  might  be  catastrophic  to  the  Germans,  who  could 
easily  spare  fourteen  rail  centers.58  Spaatz  pressed  his  case  with  vigor 
and  sent  to  the  MTO  for  General  Eaker,  who  strongly  advised  Eisen- 
hower not  to  adopt  the  transportation  plan.59 

A decision  had  to  be  made.  The  differences  of  opinion  arose  from 
varying  interpretations  of  experiences  in  Sicily  and  Italy  and  were  de- 
rived from  the  same  intelligence  data  on  the  European  railway  system. 
The  divisions  were  not  along  national  lines,  nor  of  the  RAF  and  the 
AAF,  but,  in  Mr.  Churchill’s  phrase,  “criss-cross  between  them.”60 
Several  British  agencies  favored  oil  and  interdiction,  while  others  sup- 
ported the  transportation  plan.  Among  the  AAF  generals  in  England 
considerable  variance  of  opinion  prevailed,  and  while  Headquarters 
AAF  tended  to  follow  Spaatz’s  views,  it  declined  to  commit  itself  on 
the  ground  that  this  was  a matter  for  General  Eisenhower  to  decide.61 

At  a conference  at  WIDEWING  on  Saturday,  25  March  1944,  all 
views  on  the  issue  were  aired.  Tedder  supported  Leigh-Mallory’s  pro- 
posal. Harris  and  Portal  raised  a few  doubts  but  gave  it  qualified  ap- 
proval. General  Eisenhower  said  he  thought  there  was  no  real  alterna- 
tive; the  transportation  plan  was  the  only  one  which  offered  a reason- 
able chance  for  the  air  forces  to  make  an  important  contribution  to  the 
land  battle  during  the  first  vital  weeks  of  OVERLORD.  General 
Spaatz  made  his  final  plea:  the  GAF  would  fight  to  defend  oil  installa- 
tions but  not  the  rail  centers;  an  oil  campaign  would  have  decisive 
effects  within  six  months,  but  the  transportation  plan  could  not  be  de- 
cisive within  any  measurable  length  of  time.62 

On  the  following  day  Eisenhower  officially  made  his  decision— in 
favor  of  the  transportation  plan.  As  he  wrote  General  Marshall  a few 
weeks  later,  he  was  convinced  “there  is  no  other  way  in  which  this  tre- 
mendous air  force  can  help  us,  during  the  preparatory  period,  to  get 

78 


PLAN  FOR  OVERLORD 


ashore  and  stay  there.”63  In  choosing  this  plan,  however,  the  supreme 
commander  left  the  way  open  for  an  early  beginning  of  an  oil  campaign 
and  the  inclusion  of  an  interdiction  program  near  D-day.  And,  as  will 
be  seen,  he  settled  the  command  organization  for  the  rail  center  bomb- 
ings in  a way  that  pleased  Spaatz,  who  agreed  that,  in  view  of  all  the 
factors  involved,  Eisenhower’s  decision  was  justified.64 

A formidable  obstacle  remained  before  the  transportation  plan  could 
go  into  effect.  The  British  War  Cabinet,  and  especially  the  Prime  Min- 
ister, were  appalled  by  the  number  of  French  and  Belgian  casualties 
likely  to  result  when  the  rail  centers  were  bombed.  Some  estimates  ran 
to  1 60,000,  and  it  was  feared  that  disagreeable  political  and  diplomatic 
reactions  might  ensue,  that  there  would  arise  among  the  French  a 
serious  revulsion  against  Britain  and  America  over  what  might  seem  to 
them  a ruthless  use  of  air  power.65  General  Eisenhower  gradually  over- 
came the  hesitations  of  the  British  cabinet  and  even  of  French  officials 
by  insisting  resolutely  on  the  sober  military  necessity  of  making  a suc- 
cessful landing  and  driving  the  enemy  out  of  France  as  quickly  as  pos- 
sible.66 On  7 May  1944,  after  a few  bombings  had  been  carried  out, 
Churchill  wrote  the  President  that  he  was  by  no  means  convinced  of 
the  wisdom  of  the  transportation  plan.67  But  General  Arnold  and  the 
War  Department  were  resolved  that  Eisenhower  should  be  left  with 
freedom  of  action  in  the  matter.88  The  transportation  plan  was  to  be 
regarded  as  one  of  the  prices  of  liberation  which,  even  with  10,000 
casualties,69  proved  much  less  terrible  than  had  been  anticipated. 

Command  of  the  Heavies 

The  question  of  fitting  the  strategic  air  forces  into  the  invasion  com- 
mand lay  in  the  background  of  nearly  all  air  considerations  that  came 
up  from  time  to  time.  Neither  the  American  nor  the  British  staff  had 
changed  its  opinion  since  the  discussions  of  November  1943.*  The  U.S. 
Joint  Chiefs  were  still  determined  to  give  General  Eisenhower  com- 
mand of  all  air  forces  for  the  critical  period  of  OVERLORD.  The 
British  still  wished  RAF  Bomber  Command  to  retain  its  semiautono- 
mous  position  without  falling  under  Eisenhower’s  control.  Shortly 
after  he  arrived  in  England,  General  Eisenhower  received  a letter  from 
General  Arnold  reminding  him  of  the  AAF’s  desire  to  do  everything 
possible  to  bring  the  air  forces  under  the  supreme  command.70  In  thank- 
ing Arnold  for  his  support  Eisenhower  said  he  was  “perfectly  willing 

* See  Vol.  II,  737-38. 


79 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

to  avoid  terms  and  language  that  might  startle  anyone,”  but  he  wanted 
full  power  to  determine  missions  and  priorities  for  all  forces  without 
having  to  negotiate  in  the  heat  of  battle.71  General  Spaatz  was  entirely 
in  favor  of  placing  USSTAF  at  the  disposal  of  the  supreme  com- 
mander; in  fact,  he  had  advocated  such  an  arrangement  when  he  first 
heard  about  OVERLORD.72  And  at  lunch  one  day  in  January  1944 
he  and  Tedder  privately  agreed  that  whatever  organization  was  de- 
cided upon,  they  would  conduct  air  operations  in  the  way  that  had 
proved  so  successful  in  the  Mediterranean  campaigns— under  Eisen- 
hower’s direction.73 

During  the  early  weeks  of  1944  Prime  Minister  Churchill  and  the 
Air  Ministry  continued  to  resist  American  pressure  to  bring  RAF 
Bomber  Command  into  the  invasion  structure  on  the  same  terms  as 
USSTAF.  Bomber  Command  should  assist  OVERLORD  at  the  criti- 
cal period,  of  course,  but  otherwise  it  might  operate  as  the  British  de- 
sired.74 Another  element  in  the  situation  was  the  attitude  of  Leigh- 
Mallory,  who,  as  air  commander  in  chief  for  OVERLORD,  intended 
to  play  a considerable  part  in  directing  strategic  air  force  operations; 
the  imposing  headquarters  which  he  was  assembling  at  Stanmore 
aroused  concern  at  USSTAF  that  he  might  succeed.75  Leigh-Mallory’s 
ideas  concerning  air  supremacy  before  the  invasion  and  the  bombing 
of  rail  centers  evoked  the  reverse  of  enthusiasm  in  Spaatz,  who  strong- 
ly opposed  endowing  that  officer  with  any  significant  degree  of  control 
over  the  Eighth  Air  Force.7®  Even  the  British  were  not  anxious  to  con- 
fide their  bombers  to  the  air  commander  in  chief.77  The  final  settle- 
ment of  the  transportation  issue  on  26  March  1944  took  into  considera- 
tion Spaatz’s  wishes  regarding  the  command  structure  for  that  pro- 
gram. Eisenhower  stipulated  carefully  that  Tedder  and  not  Leigh- 
Mallory  would  direct  the  transportation  campaign  and  that  USSTAF 
and  RAF  Bomber  Command  would  be  parallel  to  AEAF  in  its  execu- 
tion.78 

That  proved  to  be  the  pattern  for  adjusting  the  air  command  ques- 
tion: the  equal  stature  of  AEAF,  USSTAF,  and  Bomber  Command 
within  the  supreme  commander’s  organization.  It  was  reached  when 
Prime  Minister  Churchill  yielded  to  Eisenhower’s  views  after  the  lat- 
ter threatened,  as  General  Marshall  reportedly  had  once  said  he  would 
do  under  the  circumstances,79  to  “go  home”  unless  he  commanded  the 
air  forces  during  the  invasion.80  With  Churchill’s  opposition  sur- 
mounted, Eisenhower,  Portal,  and  Spaatz  worked  out  an  agreement 

80 


PLAN  FOR  OVERLORD 


which  placed  the  strategic  air  forces  under  the  supreme  commander 
with  the  understanding  that  Tedder  would  supervise  OVERLORD 
air  operations  for  SHAEF,  that  the  security  of  the  British  Isles  (against 
the  robot-bomb  and  rocket  threat)  * might  take  precedence  over  all  air 
priorities,  and  that  the  command  organization  would  be  reviewed  after 
the  Allied  armies  were  established  on  the  continent.81  These  arrange- 
ments were  acceptable  to  Headquarters  AAF,  although  General 
Arnold  took  the  precaution  of  adding  a proviso  which  gave  the  Com- 
bined Chiefs  of  Staff  power  to  review  and  approve  the  final  plan  for 
strategic  air  force  participation  in  OVERLORD  before  it  went  into 
effect.82  Lastly,  a question  of  terminology  arose.  The  British  wanted  to 
charge  Eisenhower  with  “responsibility  for  supervising”  air  operations, 
while  the  supreme  commander  himself  insisted  upon  the  phrase  “com- 
mand of”  so  there  could  be  no  doubt  of  his  right  to  control  such  opera- 
tions.83 The  final  wording  of  the  directive,  devised  in  Washington  be- 
fore Eisenhower’s  recommendation  arrived,  gave  the  supreme  com- 
mander “direction  of”  air  operations  out  of  England.84  Eisenhower 
began  to  exercise  his  new  power  on  an  informal  basis  by  the  last  of 
March  1 944, 85  and  at  midnight  on  13/14  April  1944  he  officially  as- 
sumed control.86 

Thus  Eisenhower  commanded  or  directed  AEAF  (Ninth  Air  Force, 
Second  Tactical  Air  Force,  Air  Defence  of  Great  Britain  and  several 
assorted  RAF  groups),  RAF  Bomber  Command,  USSTAF  (Eighth 
and  Fifteenth  Air  Forces,  with  only  the  Eighth  really  under  Eisen- 
hower’s direction),  U.S.  1st  Army  Group,  2 1 Army  Group,  and  Allied 
Naval  Forces— altogether  a most  formidable  aggregation  of  forces. 
Tedder  coordinated  the  operations  of  the  three  air  commands  and  super- 
vised their  strategical  operations  in  support  of  OVERLORD.  Actually, 
it  seemed  to  some  American  officers,  he  enjoyed  the  enviable  position 
of  possessing  authority  without  responsibility.87  Leigh-Mallory  was 
officially  the  air  commander  in  chief  for  OVERLORD  and  chief  of 
AEAF;  he  was  also  allowed  to  supervise  heavy  bomber  operations  that 
were  purely  tactical.  He  was  not  to  assume  rigid  control  of  the  strategic 
air  forces  until  1 June  1944,  and  then  only  for  a short  time. 

The  command  settlement  was  a successful  compromise  of  various 
conflicting  interests  and  points  of  view.  Yet  it  imposed  several  awk- 
ward relationships  on  USSTAF.  For  example,  while  Spaatz  and  Tedder 
were  close,  only  one  American  officer  sat  on  Tedder’s  nine-man  coun- 

* See  below,  Chap.  4. 

8l 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


cil  for  air  matters.  Thus  USSTAF  and  Eighth  and  Ninth  Air  Force 
headquarters  were  sometimes  overlooked  in  secondary  matters.88  The 
primacy  in  priority  given  the  robot-bomb  and  rocket  threat  sometimes 
proved  irksome  to  USSTAF.  And  there  remained  the  disturbing 
AEAF  situation.  The  largest  component  of  that  organization,  Ninth 
Air  Force,  was  under  Leigh-Mallory  for  operations  and  Spaatz  for 
administration.  A belated  effort  to  reduce  friction  within  AEAF  was 
made  in  May  1944  by  assigning  Maj.  Gen.  Hoyt  S.  Vandenberg  as 
deputy  commander.  The  Fifteenth  Air  Force  in  Italy  was  one  of  the 
twin  pillars  of  USSTAF  and  therefore  was  responsible  to  Spaatz  for 
strategic  operations,  but  the  MTO  commander,  General  Wilson,  had 
the  power  to  put  the  Fifteenth  on  tactical  tasks  in  the  land  battle  if  he 
declared  an  emergency;  however,  he  used  this  prerogative  with  admir- 
able restraint.89  Finally,  the  Combined  Chiefs  of  Staff  granted  author- 
ity under  British  pressure  and  over  Spaatz’s  objections  to  permit  the 
MTO  commander  to  order  heavy  bomber  attacks  on  political  objec- 
tives whenever  he  thought  such  blows  might  do  some  good.90  This 
meant  in  fact  the  bombing  of  the  capitals  of  those  nations  in  south- 
eastern Europe,  Mr.  Churchill’s  “Balkan  jackals,”91  which  at  that  stage 
of  the  war  always  seemed  to  be  tottering  but  would  not  fall. 

Opinion  in  Headquarters  AAF  tended  to  be  critical  of  the  air  organi- 
zation for  the  invasion,  although  it  was  pleased  that  USSTAF  and  RAF 
Bomber  Command  had  been  brought  under  Eisenhower’s  direction.92 
General  Arnold  occasionally  toyed  with  the  idea  of  elevating  Spaatz 
to  a command  which  would  embrace  all  U.S.  air  forces  in  Europe,  thus 
giving  him  a position  practically  parallel  to  Eisenhower’s  except  for  the 
critical  period  of  the  invasion.93  Early  in  1944,  Spaatz  discouraged  the 
proposal  since  Eisenhower  asked  him  not  to  press  it  in  view  of  the  deli- 
cate negotiations  then  in  progress  with  regard  to  Bomber  Command.94 
Toward  the  end  of  April,  however,  after  he  had  seen  air  units  nominal- 
ly under  his  control  ordered  on  diverse  missions  by  a half-dozen  dif- 
ferent headquarters,  Spaatz  informed  Arnold  that  the  full  potential 
power  of  the  American  air  forces  was  not  being  realized.  Thus  he  pri- 
vately recommended  the  “progressive  integration  of  all  U.S.  air  forces 
operating  against  Germany,”  to  be  effected  after  the  invasion.95 

This  combination  of  the  American  air  forces,  a project  often  con- 
sidered, was  not  to  be  achieved  before  the  European  war  ended.  There 
was  no  serious  possibility  of  “marrying”  the  RAF  and  the  AAF,  for 
each  possessed  very  large  forces  and  was  devoted  to  different  operating 

82 


PLAN  FOR  OVERLORD 


methods.  Also,  American  officers  disliked  serving  ynder  British  com- 
mand, an  attitude  which  was  undoubtedly  reciprocated.  But  Spaatz 
thought  it  was  imperative  to  free  the  air  forces  from  all  commanders 
whose  primary  interest  lay  in  other  directions  than  the  air  war.96  Long 
before97  and  long  after  D-day98  he  contended  that  a properly  con- 
ducted strategic  air  war  would  eliminate  the  need  for  the  invasion  by 
land  forces,  or  at  least  reduce  it  to  a mere  occupational  operation.  Such 
an  air  offensive  was  not  to  take  place,  however;  it  had  very  early  been 
determined  to  subordinate  air  power  to  the  more  conventional  types  of 
warfare,  thus  making  the  victory  in  the  last  analysis  a land  victory  won 
with  the  support  of  the  air  forces.  Both  Spaatz  and  Arnold  were  recon- 
ciled to  this  situation  and  did  their  best  to  make  things  easier  for  Eisen- 
hower at  the  time  of  his  historic  responsibility.  Hence  the  AAF  agreed 
to  suggest  no  changes  in  the  command  structure  until  after  the  invasion 
forces  were  securely  established  in  France  and  then,  as  it  turned  out,  it 
was  not  disposed  to  revise  the  system  at  all. 

The  organizational  machinery  for  the  invasion  was  not  really  as  un- 
wieldy as  it  appeared,  as  Spaatz  pointed  out  after  V-E  Day,99  nor  as 
tangled  as  it  looked  on  charts.  Actually,  it  functioned  exceedingly  well, 
not  so  much  because  of  its  structure  as  because  of  the  good  sense  and 
proper  spirit  of  top  British  and  American  commanders  as  well  as  the 
intense  conviction  all  down  the  line  that  the  invasion  had  to  succeed. 
“It  will,  I think,  be  considerable  time  before  anybody  will  be  able,” 
General  Morgan  has  observed,  “to  set  down  in  the  form  of  an  organi- 
zational diagram  the  channels  through  which  General  Eisenhower’s 
orders  reached  his  aircraft.”100  But  reach  them  they  did,  and  to  good 
effect. 


83 


CHAPTER  4 


CROSSBOW 

I ATE  in  1942  British  intelligence  received  with  disquieting  fre- 
quency reports  of  German  long-range  “secret  weapons”  de- 
j signed  to  bombard  England  from  continental  areas.  Shortly 
before  dawn  on  13  June  1944,  seven  days  after  the  Allied  invasion  of 
Normandy,  a German  pilotless  aircraft  designated  the  V-i  flamed 
across  the  dark  sky  from  the  Pas-de-Calais  and  exploded  on  a railroad 
bridge  in  the  center  of  London.1  A new  era  in  warfare  had  begun. 

After  the  V-i,  which  was  essentially  an  aerial  torpedo  with  wings, 
came  the  V-2,  a twelve-ton  rocket  missile  that  reached  a speed  of  nearly 
4,000  miles  per  hour  and,  in  contrast  to  the  V-i,  descended  on  its  target 
without  even  so  much  as  a warning  noise.  The  first  V-2  fired  in  com- 
bat exploded  violently  in  a suburb  of  Paris  on  8 September  1944;  the 
second  struck  London  a few  hours  later.2  By  the  time  of  Germany’s 
collapse  in  the  spring  of  1945  more  than  30,000  V weapons  (approxi- 
mately 16,000  V-i’s  and  14,000  V-2’s)  had  been  fired  against  England 
or  against  continental  targets  in  areas  held  by  the  advancing  land  ar- 
mies of  the  Allied  forces.3 

In  May  1943,  Flight  Officer  Constance  Babington-Smith,  a WAAF 
member  of  the  Allied  central  photographic  interpretation  unit  in  Lon- 
don, had  interpreted  a small,  curving  black  shadow  on  a photograph  of 
Peenemunde,  in  the  Baltic,  as  an  elevated  ramp  and  the  tiny  J -shaped 
blot  above  the  ramp  as  an  airplane  without  a cockpit.  The  V- 1 had  been 
seen  and  recognized  by  Allied  eyes  for  the  first  time.4  Almost  simulta- 
neously, at  Watten  on  the  Channel  coast  of  France,  Allied  intelligence 
observed  with  profound  curiosity  the  construction  of  a large  and  un- 
orthodox military  installation  of  inexplicable  purpose.  As  throughout 
the  summer  other  such  installations  were  identified,  their  purpose  be- 
came clear  enough  to  cause  an  increasing  weight  of  British  and  Ameri- 

84 


CROSSBOW 


can  air  power  to  be  thrown  into  the  effort,  often  blind,  to  prevent  the 
Germans  from  employing  a new,  mysterious,  and  nightmarish  weap- 
on.5 To  this  effort  was  given  in  December  1943  the  code  word  CROSS- 
BOW,* which  thereafter  was  used  to  designate  Anglo-American  oper- 
ations against  all  phases  of  the  German  long-range  weapons  program- 
operations  against  German  research,  experimentation,  manufacture, 
construction  of  launching  sites,  and  the  transportation  and  firing  of 
finished  missiles,  and  also  operations  against  missiles  in  flight,  once  they 
had  been  fired.6  Allied  CROSSBOW  operations,  begun  informally  in 
the  late  spring  of  1943  and  officially  in  December  of  that  year,  did  not 
end  until  the  last  V weapon  was  fired  by  the  Germans  a few  days  be- 
fore their  surrender  in  May  1945. 

The  German  V Weapons' 

Three  new  “secret  weapons”  of  the  first  magnitude  were  introduced 
in  World  War  II:  radar,  long-range  missiles,  and  the  atomic  bomb. 
Of  these  weapons,  the  long-range  missile  was  the  only  one  first  devel- 
oped and  exploited  in  combat  by  the  Germans. 

Military  strategists  had  long  dreamed  of  an  “ideal”  missile— one  that 
could  reach  beyond  the  range  of  conventional  artillery  and  that  would 
prove  less  costly  to  manufacture  and  less  complex  to  operate  than  the 
bomber  aircraft.7  Ironically,  a clause  in  the  Versailles  Treaty  which 
forbade  the  Germans  to  develop  conventional  military  aircraft8  im- 
pelled certain  farsighted  German  militarists  to  consider  the  creation  of 
long-range  missiles  powered  by  jet  or  rocket  propulsion.  The  Allies,  un- 
hampered by  any  such  restriction,  seem  to  have  given  little  thought 
after  1918  to  the  potentialities  of  long-range  missiles.  They  had,  it  is 
true,  experimented  during  the  last  years  of  the  first  world  war  with  the 
idea  of  the  remote  control  of  conventional  aircraft  by  mechanical  and 
electrical  devices,  but  after  the  Armistice  only  a few  airmen  retained 
an  active  interest  in  this  type  of  long-range  weapon.9  A failure  of  imagi- 
nation in  some  military  quarters,  together  with  insufficient  funds,  ren- 
dered the  peacetime  development  of  long-range  missiles  impossible,  on 
any  significant  scale,  in  England  or  America.10 

Even  the  German  army  appears  to  have  waited  until  early  in  1930 

* This  choice  of  words  has  been  attributed  to  Churchill  as  one  suggesting  “an 
obsolete,  clumsy  and  inaccurate  weapon.” 

fThe  “V”  designation  originally  meant  Versuchmuster  (experimental  type);  inter- 
pretation of  the  “V”  as  representing  Vergeltungsivaffe  (vengeance  weapons)  was  a 
iater  addition  by  German  propaganda  agencies. 


85 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


before  taking  a serious  interest  in  the  long-range  missile  as  a military 
weapon.11  Although  intensive  rocket  research  by  German  scientists 
and  technicians  had  been  under  way  since  1920,  it  was  only  after 
watching  the  experiments  for  a decade  that  the  ordnance  department 
of  the  German  army  absorbed  a handful  of  ardent  enthusiasts  who  ini- 
tially had  been  more  interested  in  rocket  postal  service  between  Berlin 
and  New  York  and  in  trips  to  the  moon  than  in  developing  new 
weapons  of  warfare.12  In  1931  Capt.  Walter  Domberger  (later  Major 
General)  was  placed  in  charge  of  a military  rocket  development  pro- 
gram, and  by  1932  an  “A”  series*  of  military  rockets  was  well  under 
way.13  Shortly  after  coming  to  power  in  1933,  Hitler  visited  the 
army’s  experimental  rocket  station  at  Kummersdorf,  on  the  outskirts 
of  Berlin,14  but  he  was  unimpressed  and  for  nearly  ten  years  remained 
skeptical  of  the  importance  of  long-range  rockets.  Influential  members 
of  the  German  general  staff,  however,  were  deeply  interested  in  the 
possibilities  of  long-range  weapons.  In  1934  Field  Marshal  Werner  von 
Fritsch,  commander  in  chief  of  the  Reichswehr,  was  so  impressed  by  a 
successful  demonstration  of  a V-2  prototype  that  he  gave  Dornberger’s 
experimental  organization  enthusiastic  and  effective  support.15  Von 
Fritsch’s  successor,  Field  Marshal  Walter  von  Brauchtisch,  gave  even 
firmer  support  to  the  German  rocket  program.16 

Military  specifications  for  the  V-2  were  established  in  February 
1 93  6, 17  and  from  that  time  forward  the  German  ordnance  division  was 
committed  to  rapid  development  and  production  of  the  V-2.  Construc- 
tion of  the  Peenemiinde  experimental  station,  which  was  undertaken 
jointly  by  the  ordnance  division  and  the  Luftwaffe,  began  in  1937. 18 
By  1939  more  than  one-third  of  Germany’s  entire  aerodynamic  and 
technological  research  was  devoted  to  the  hope  of  creating  missiles 
capable,  in  the  extreme,  of  bombarding  New  York  City.18  During  the 
later  years  of  the  war  integrated  research  and  production  activity  on 
long-range  weapons  was  in  progress  from  the  Danish  border  to  Swit- 
zerland and  from  the  coast  of  France  to  the  Russian  front.20 

The  first  full-sized  V-2  was  launched  in  June  1942;  the  fourth,  fired 
on  3 October  1942,  achieved  a fall  on  target  at  a range  of  190  kilome- 
ters. In  the  previous  April,  General  Dornberger— certain  of  the  techni- 
cal success  of  the  new  weapon— had  laid  before  Hitler  material  and 

• In  the  German  series  designation  for  long-range  military  rockets,  of  which  the 
V-2  was  the  fourth  type,  “A”  stood  for  Aggregat,  a noncommital  cover  name  mean- 
ing “unit”  or  “series.” 

86 


CROSSBOW 


operational  requirements  for  firing  5,000  V-2*s  a year  from  the  French 
coast.  Hitler,  with  perhaps  characteristic  fanaticism,  inquired  if  it 
would  be  possible  to  launch  5,000  V-2’s  simultaneously  in  a single  mass 
attack  against  England.  Dornberger  informed  Hitler  that  such  an  oper- 
ation was  impossible.  He  promised,  however,  to  inaugurate  a spectacu- 
lar bombardment  of  London  in  the  summer  of  1943.  Accepting  Gen- 
eral Dornberger’s  plan,  Hitler  issued  orders  for  V-2  production  and 
for  the  creation  of  a rocket-firing  organization.  Production  of  the  V-2 
commenced  at  Peenemiinde.  Plans  were  established  for  its  manufacture 
in  other  parts  of  Germany  and  for  construction  of  a chain  of  rocket- 
firing sites  on  the  French  coast.21 

The  Luftwaffe,  its  prestige  still  suffering  from  the  Battle  of  Britain, 
found  itself  unwilling  that  Germany  should  be  saved  entirely  by  efforts 
of  the  army.  An  already  overloaded  experimental  and  production  or- 
ganization was  called  upon  by  Goering  to  produce  a “retaliation 
weapon”  to  outshine,  if  possible,  the  massive,  complex,  and  costly  V-2 
developed  by  army  ordnance.22  The  flying  bomb  was  conceived  with 
much  haste  and  uncommon  efficiency;  it  was  in  full  production  less 
than  two  years  after  the  initial  experimentation  began.23  For  its  partic- 
ular purposes  in  the  war  the  V-i  proved  to  be  a more  efficient  and  suc- 
cessful weapon  than  the  V-2,  although  it  was  a less  spectacular  mech- 
anism.* 

Both  weapons  competed  for  Hitler’s  favor  and  their  production  in- 
terfered, in  varying  degrees,  with  the  production  of  other  essential 
materiel  and  weapons.  The  German  war  machine,  already  overbur- 
dened with  factional  conflict  and  lacking  adequate  centralization,  suf- 
fered from  the  ensuing  struggle  between  proponents  of  the  two  new 
weapons  and  in  the  subsequent  vacillations  of  Hitler.  Early  in  March 
1943,  Reichsminister  Albert  Speer,  who  belatedly  had  been  placed  in 
charge  of  all  German  war  production,  brought  General  Dornberger 
the  news  that  Hitler  had  dreamed  the  V-2  would  never  land  on  Eng- 
land; his  interest  in  the  project  was,  accordingly,  gone  and  its  priority 
canceled.24  Later  in  the  month  Speer,  who  was  very  high  in  Hitler’s 
favor  and  could  afford  to  act  independently,  sent  the  chairman  of  a 
newly  created  long-range-weapon  development  commission  to  Peene- 
miinde  to  determine  what  could  be  salvaged  from  the  V-2  program. 
Speer’s  emissary  returned  from  Peenemiinde  bursting  with  enthusiasm 
for  the  project.  Because  he  had  some  confidence  in  the  V weapons  and 

* See  below,  p.  543. 


8? 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


because  he  could  afford  the  risk,  Speer  very  carefully  redirected  the 
mind  of  Hitler  to  a revival  of  the  V-2  program,  with  the  result  that 
Dornberger  and  Prof.  Werhner  von  Braun,  the  technician  chiefly  re- 
sponsible for  creating  the  V-2,  were  ordered  in  May  to  report  in  person 
to  Hitler.  Assisted  by  motion  pictures  of  V-2  take-offs  and  of  target 
demolitions  at  ranges  of  175  miles,  Dornberger  and  von  Braun  suc- 
ceeded in  persuading  Hitler  to  restore  the  V-2  production  program, 
but  only  after  the  irreparable  loss  of  at  least  two  months’  delay  in  conse- 
quence of  the  Fuehrer’s  dream.25 

To  General  Dornberger,  Hitler  is  reported  later  to  have  declared: 

If  only  I had  had  faith  in  you  earlier!  In  all  my  life  I have  owed  apologies  to 
two  people  only,  General  Field  Marshal  von  Brauchtisch  who  repeatedly  drew 
my  attention  to  the  importance  of  the  A-4  [V-2]  for  the  future,  and  yourself. 
If  we  had  had  the  A-4  earlier  and  in  sufficient  quantities,  it  would  have  had 
decisive  importance  in  this  War.  I didn’t  believe  in  it 26 

He  had  ordered  the  V-2  program  restored  on  a basis  of  the  highest 
priority.  Plans  for  construction  of  the  huge  launching  sites  in  France 
were  tripled  in  scale  and  given  great  urgency.  Under  a plan  drafted  by 
Dornberger  in  April  1942  and  expanded  in  May  1943,  operations 
against  London  were  to  begin  with  a firing  rate  of  108  rockets  per  day, 
and  this  rate  would  be  stepped  up  as  production  increased.  The  new 
target  date  for  commencing  operations  against  London  was  set  for  1 5 
January  1944,  the  date  also  fixed  by  the  Luftwaffe  for  the  initiation  of 
flying  bomb  attacks.27  The  combined  firing  rates  of  V-i  and  V-2  mis- 
siles, together  with  other  long-range  weapons  in  preparation  but  never 
used,*  would  enable  the  Germans  to  throw  some  94,000  tons  of  high 
explosives  against  England  in  a single  month.  Within  a year  after  the 
beginning  of  operations,  according  to  German  estimates,  it  would  be 
possible  to  bombard  England  at  an  approximate  annual  rate  of  one  mil- 
lion tons  of  explosive,28  which  was  roughly  the  tonnage  dropped  on  a 
much  larger  geographical  area  by  the  Anglo-American  bomber  offen- 
sive in  its  most  successful  year.29 

These  high  hopes  received  support  from  Willy  Messerschmitt,  who 
informed  Hitler  that  German  industry  could,  through  an  all-out  ef- 
fort, produce  as  many  as  100,000  V-2’s  per  month.30  But  even  after 
May  1943  Hitler  failed  to  resolve  the  conflicts  arising  from  rivalries 
within  the  V- weapon  program  itself,  to  the  detriment  of  plans  both 

•Principally  of  a long-range  artillery  type  for  which  elaborate  firing  installations 
were  prepared  on  the  French  coast. 

88 


CROSSBOW 


for  the  V-i  and  the  V-2.31  Responsible  German  quarters  continued  to 
place  varying  interpretations  on  the  utility  of  the  weapon,  with  the 
high  command  showing  a tendency  to  discount  its  importance.32 

Though  not  ready  on  schedule  the  V weapon  would  be  ready  by 
summer  of  1944,  and  well  in  advance  of  that  date  Allied  circles  knew 
genuine  concern  lest  the  Germans  achieve  one  or  all  of  the  objectives 
set  forth  by  proponents  of  the  new  weapon:  postponement  or  disrup- 
tion of  the  Allied  invasion  of  the  continent,  cessation  of  the  bomber 
offensive  against  Germany,  a truce  in  consequence  of  a stalemate.33 

The  Need  for  a CROSSBOW  Policy 

As  early  as  November  1939  the  British  government  had  received 
reliable  and  relatively  full  information  on  German  long-range-weapon 
activity,  and  as  intelligence  reports  through  the  winter  of  1942-43 
brought  increasing  evidence  of  that  activity,  it  became  clear  that  Ger- 
man intentions,  however  fantastic  they  appeared  to  be,  demanded 
evaluation.  In  April  1943,  accordingly,  Duncan  Sandys  of  the  British 
War  Cabinet  undertook  a full  study  which  resulted  in  the  advice  that 
a threat  from  German  “secret  weapons”  should  be  taken  seriously.34 
The  RAF  promptly  inaugurated  an  aerial  reconnaissance  of  continental 
areas  that  became  with  time  the  most  comprehensive  such  operation  un- 
dertaken during  the  entire  war.* 

Particular  attention  was  given  to  activity  observed  early  in  May  at 
Peenemiinde,  a secluded  spot  on  the  Isle  of  Usedom  in  the  Baltic  Sea. 
It  was  on  a photograph  of  Peenemiinde  that  Flight  Officer  Babington- 
Smith  first  identified  the  V-i .+  Full-scale  reconnaissance  of  installations 
there  continued,  and  it  was  decided  early  in  July  to  send  against  Penne- 
miinde  a massive  heavy  bomber  mission.35  With  Air  Chief  Marshal  Sir 
Arthur  Harris  of  RAF  Bomber  Command  in  personal  charge  of  prep- 
arations, plans  were  made  with  the  utmost  care,  and  late  in  the  eve- 
ning of  17  August  1943,  a day  already  made  memorable  by  the  Regens- 
burg-Schweinfurt  mission  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force,  597  RAF  bombers 
began  the  long  run  to  the  Baltic  coast.  The  attack  at  Peenemiinde  began 
shortly  after  midnight.  There  is  wide  and  perhaps  irreconcilable  vari- 
ance in  estimates  of  the  success  of  this  attack.  Only  this  much  can  be 

* Between  1 May  1943  and  31  March  1944  nearly  40  per  cent  of  Allied  reconnaissance 
sorties  dispatched  from  the  United  Kingdom  were  devoted  to  CROSSBOW.  Ulti- 
mately, over  1,250,000  aerial  photographs  were  taken  and  more  than  4,000,000  prints 
prepared. 

t See  above,  p.  84. 


89 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

stated  positively:  571  of  the  597  aircraft  dropped  nearly  2,000  tons  of 
high  explosives  and  incendiaries  in  the  general  area  of  the  Peenemiinde 
installation;36  more  than  700  persons  at  the  station,  including  one  of 
the  most  valuable  German  rocket  experts,  were  killed;37  and  some 
damage  was  done  to  experimental  buildings,  though  none  of  the  critical 
installations,  such  as  test  stands  and  the  wind  tunnels,  seems  to  have  been 
hit.38  These  were  substantial,  if  not  decisive,  achievements.  There  were, 
however,  two  important  consequences  of  the  attack.  The  Germans 
had  received  full  warning  that  massive  efforts  would  be  made  to  pre- 
vent or  disrupt  the  use  of  their  new  weapons,  and  they  proceeded  to 
disperse  V-weapon  activity  from  Peenemiinde,  though  there  is  good 
evidence  that  plans  to  transfer  important  production  activities  had  been 
made  before  the  attack.39 

Ten  days  later,  on  27  August,  the  Eighth  Air  Force  sent  out  its  first 
CROSSBOW  mission— an  attack  by  187  B-i7’s  on  the  German  con- 
struction at  Watten.40  British  intelligence  estimated  that  the  damage 
inflicted  would  require  as  much  as  three  months  to  repair,  but  con- 
tinued reconnaissance  of  the  French  coast  revealed  new  constructions 
of  a similar  type,  all  in  the  Pas-de-Calais.  In  addition  to  the  immense 
buildings  at  Watten,  later  described  by  General  Brereton  as  “more  ex- 
tensive than  any  concrete  constructions  we  have  in  the  United  States, 
with  the  possible  exception  of  Boulder  Dam,”41  the  British  discovered 
large  constructions  under  way  at  Lottinghem  and  Wizernes.  In  Sep- 
tember, other  constructions  of  the  same  magnitude  were  observed  at 
Mimoyecques  and  Siracourt,  and  within  a short  time  thereafter  similar 
activity  was  revealed  at  Martinvast  and  Sottevast,  on  the  Cherbourg 
peninsula.42  Within  five  months’  time  (the  Watten  site  had  been  dis- 
covered in  May  1943),  seven  “Large  Sites,”  as  they  came  subsequently 
to  be  described,  had  been  identified  from  which,  it  was  believed,  the 
Germans  were  preparing  to  fire  rocket  missiles  against  London  and 
other  British  targets.* 

* The  large  sites,  which  were  mainly  underground,  embraced  related  but  some- 
times separate  structures  thousands  of  feet  long,  often  with  steel  and  concrete  walls 
25  to  30  feet  in  thickness.  The  connecting  tunnels  and  underground  chambers  of  the 
more  massive  of  the  large  sites  could  have  sheltered,  it  has  been  estimated,  at  least 
200,000  people  in  a single  site.  It  has  been  established  that  the  Germans  intended  to 
quarter  that  many  operating  personnel  in  the  seven  large  sites.  Throughout  the 
CROSSBOW  operations  the  Allies  generally  assumed  that  these  large  sites  were  pri- 
marily associated  with  large  rockets  (V-2’s).  After  inspection  of  the  seven  captured 
sites  by  an  Allied  mission  in  February  1945,  it  was  concluded  that  Siracourt  and 
Lottinghem  (Pas-de-Calais)  and  Sottevast  and  Martinvast  had  been  intended  as 
storage,  assembly,  and  firing  sites  for  the  V-i  ; that  only  Wizernes  had  been  conceived 


90 


CROSSBOW 


Throughout  the  fall  and  early  winter  of  1943  intermittent  and  light 
attacks  by  the  Allies  were  dispatched  to  harass  building  activities  at 
three  large  sites.  The  site  at  Watten  was  bombed  on  30  August  and 
7 September  in  small  raids  by  medium  and  heavy  bombers  of  the  Eighth 
Air  Force.  Mimoyecques  was  twice  bombed  in  early  November  by  the 
Second  Tactical  Air  Force.  The  large  site  under  construction  at  Mar- 
tinvast  received  450  tons  from  the  same  air  force  between  25  Novem- 
ber and  2 December.43 

Discovery  of  a second  type  of  German  construction  on  the  French 
coast  was  made  by  aerial  reconnaissance  on  24  October  194 3. 44  In  re- 
sponse to  reports  from  agents  in  the  Pas-de-Calais  a close  photographic 
cover  of  the  area  around  Yvrench-Bois-Carre  revealed  a series  of  con- 
crete structures,  the  largest  of  which  were  two  curiously  shaped  build- 
ings, each  nearly  300  feet  in  length,  resembling  gigantic  skis  laid  on 
edge.  The  installation  at  Yvrench-Bois-Carre  was  designated  as  the 
“Prototype  Ski  Site.”  By  the  middle  of  November,  twenty-one  ski  sites* 
had  been  identified.45 

As  Allied  reconnaissance  of  the  French  coast  continued  with  unre- 
mitting effort  a significant  relationship  among  the  ski  sites  became 
apparent:  the  alignment  of  all  the  ski  sites  in  the  Pas-de-Calais  indi- 
cated an  orientation  directly  on  London.  It  was  impossible  for  British 
intelligence  to  escape  the  conclusion  that  the  closely  integrated  and 
rapidly  growing  network  of  installations  was  to  be  used  for  some  type 
of  concentrated  long-range  attack  against  the  world’s  most  populous 
city— and  the  heart  of  the  staging  area  for  the  forthcoming  invasion 
of  the  continent.48  A few  military  and  civilian  analysts  regarded  the 
whole  series  of  ski  sites,  together  with  the  seven  large  sites,  as  a gigantic 


as  a site  for  assembling  and  firing  V-2’s;  that  the  Mimoyecques  site  had  been  designed 
to  house  batteries  of  long-range  guns  of  unorthodox  design;  and  that  Watten  had  been 
designed  as  an  underground  factory  for  chemicals  used  in  firing  both  types  of 
V weapons.  Though  Dornberger  and  von  Braun  agree  in  substance  with  the  foregoing 
estimate,  they  do  not  give  so  precise  a statement  as  to  the  original  purpose  of  the 
seven  large  sites.  -The  1945  mission,  it  may  be  noted,  had  this  to  say  after  exhaustive 
analysis  of  the  Watten  site:  “No  real  clue  has  ever  been  found.”  (See  BAM  [AHB], 
File 77  [reports].) 

* One  hundred  and  fifty  ski  sites  were  projected  and  surveyed  by  the  Germans. 
Of  this  number,  96  sites  were  brought  to  some  stage  of  completion;  74  were  more 
than  50  per  cent  completed;  22  were  totally  completed.  Each  ski  site  contained  half-a- 
dozen  steel  and  concrete  structures,  some  with  walls  8 to  10  feet  thick;  the  two  ski 
buildings  at  each  site,  constructed  of  concrete  and  steel,  were  nearly  300  feet  long. 
The  ski  sites  were,  as  Allied  intelligence  had  quickly  decided,  intended  as  firing 
sites  for  V-i’s. 


91 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

hoax  by  the  Germans,  a deliberate  fraud  of  the  first  magnitude  to 
frighten  or  divert  the  attention  and  effort  of  the  Allies  from  their  at- 
tempt to  invade  the  coast  of  France.  General  Spaatz,  for  example,  was 
not  convinced  even  in  February  1944  that  these  installations  did  not 
represent  an  inspired  German  feint.47  A larger  number  of  scientists  and 
technicians,  however,  were  of  the  opinion  the  large  sites  were  being 
prepared  to  launch  huge  rockets  weighing  as  much  as  100  tons  and  that 
the  smaller  ski  sites  were  to  send  vast  numbers  of  the  Peenemiinde 
pilotless  aircraft,  estimated  to  weigh  as  much  as  20  tons,  against  the 
civilians  of  London  and  against  troop  and  supply  concentrations.48 
Rumor  added  other  interpretations.  The  Germans,  it  was  reported, 
were  preparing  to  bombard  London  with  huge  containers  bearing 
gruesome  and  fatal  “Red  Death”;  the  Germans  were  preparing  to  shoot 
enormous  tanks  of  poison  gas  to  destroy  every  living  creature  in  the 
British  Isles;  the  Germans,  even,  were  preparing  a gigantic  refriger- 
ating apparatus  along  the  French  coast  for  the  instantaneous  creation 
of  massive  icebergs  in  the  Channel  or  for  dropping  clouds  of  ice  over 
England  to  stop  the  Allied  bombers  in  mid-air.49 

Thus,  late  in  November  1943,  a year  after  the  British  had  first  re- 
ceived serious  intimations  of  the  existence  of  German  long-range 
weapons,  after  more  than  six  months’  repeated  observation  of  wide- 
spread activity  unexplainable  by  any  conventional  military  concep- 
tions, and  as  new  rumors  of  frightfulness  daily  reached  England  in  the 
mounting  flood  of  underground  reports,  there  existed  for  the  Allies 
three  central  facts:  ( 1 ) the  Germans  were  up  to  something  on  grand- 
scale  proportions,  whether  fraud  or  threat;  (2)  there  was  no  positive 
knowledge  of  what  the  Germans  were  up  to,  though  some  contempo- 
rary estimates  later  proved  to  be  remarkably  accurate;  and  (3)  there 
was  no  concerted  Allied  policy  for  preventing  the  accomplishment  of 
Germany’s  mysterious  objectives. 

It  was,  perhaps,  impossible  for  the  Allies  to  devise  an  entirely  satis- 
factory policy  in  the  light  of  the  bewildering  and  uncertain  intelli- 
gence concerning  the  threat  and  in  view  of  existing  commitments  to 
POINTBLANK  and  OVERLORD.  The  Allies  developed,  therefore, 
a series  of  policies,  all  of  which  had  the  purpose  of  destroying  or  neu- 
tralizing the  new  threat  to  the  safety  of  Britain  and  to  the  execution 
of  OVERLORD.  Measures  commensurate  with  the  scale  of  the  Ger- 
man effort  were  first  considered  in  Great  Britain  late  in  November 
1943.  Although  at  the  first  of  the  month  the  existence  of  only  one 


92 


CROSSBOW 


ski  site  and  of  seven  large  sites  had  been  verified,  the  twenty-one  ski 
sites  identified  by  1 2 November  had  been  increased  to  thirty-eight  by 
the  24th.50  As  the  opinions  of  British  intelligence  on  the  capabilities  of 
heavy  rockets  and  pilotless  aircraft  were  laid  before  the  War  Cabinet 
on  29  November,  orders  were  issued  for  intensified  reconnaissance  and 
increased  bombing  of  the  chain  of  ski  sites  and  for  the  creation  of  a 
central  military  agency  to  interpret  intelligence  and  to  devise  and  exe- 
cute countermeasures.51 

Bombing  efforts  against  the  array  of  existing  ski  sites  could  not,  how- 
ever, await  the  establishment  of  such  a central  agency.  On  the  first  of 
December,  Air  Chief  Marshal  Leigh-Mallory  of  the  AEAF  and  Air 
Marshal  Bottomley,  deputy  chief  of  staff  for  air  operations,  sought  the 
advice  and  support  of  General  Eaker  in  his  capacity  as  commanding 
general  of  the  United  States  Army  Air  Forces  in  the  United  Kingdom. 
Eaker  promptly  indicated  “complete  agreement”  with  the  British  pro- 
posal that  tactical  air  forces  being  assembled  for  use  in  OVERLORD 
should  begin  immediate  attacks  against  ski  sites  more  than  50  per  cent 
completed,  and  he  instructed  General  Brereton  to  alert  the  Ninth  Air 
Force  for  the  initiation  of  the  proposed  operations.  On  3 December 
the  British  War  Cabinet  approved  an  AEAF  and  Air  Ministry  plan 
for  sustained  attacks  against  ski  sites.  Several  hours  later,  General  Brere- 
ton received  a directive  to  commence  Ninth  Air  Force  CROSSBOW 
operations  with  the  highest  priority.52 

The  intensified  aerial  reconnaissance,  ordered  by  the  War  Cabinet 
on  29  November,  was  begun  on  4 December.  The  whole  of  a belt  ex- 
tending southeastward  150  miles  in  width  from  London  and  Ports- 
mouth was  covered  at  a scale  of  1 : 18,009.  At  the  end  of  the  first  week’s 
operations  sixty-four  ski  sites  had  been  identified,  an  increase  of  twen- 
ty-six sites  over  the  number  reported  on  24  November.  As  the  sus- 
tained reconnaissance  continued,  every  foot  of  land  in  a sweep  of  terri- 
tory reaching  from  Ostend  through  Bethune,  Doullens,  Neufchatel, 
and  St.  Saens  to  Le  Havre,  as  well  as  the  entire  northern  half  of  the 
Cherbourg  peninsula,  was  photographed  from  the  air.  The  huge  task 
of  photography  and  analysis  was  largely  completed  by  the  third  week 
in  December  and  revealed,  in  addition  to  the  seven  large  sites,  a chain 
of  ski  sites,  ten  to  twenty  miles  in  width,  extending  more  than  three 
hundred  miles  along  the  French  coast.  Sites  in  the  Pas-de-Calais  were 
all  oriented  on  London,  those  in  the  Cherbourg  peninsula  on  Bristol.53 
The  sum  total  of  identified  ski  sites  had  risen  from  sixty-four  to  sixty- 


93 


CROSSBOW 


nine  and  then  to  seventy-five.51  The  Ninth  Air  Force,  beginning  its 
CROSSBOW  operations  on  5 December,5'5  had  joined  RAF  Second 
Tactical  Air  Force  in  an  attempt  to  carry  out  the  directive  which 
placed  these  targets  in  the  highest  priority  for  Allied  tactical  air  forces. 
But  for  a time  the  effort  was  both  limited,  partly  because  of  the 
weather,  and  generally  ineffective. 

Meanwhile,  the  newly  established  CROSSBOW  agency  in  the  Air 
Ministry56  set  up  a complex  system  of  site  directories  and  target  pri- 
orities. Operational  analysts  in  the  Air  Ministry  and  in  the  several  air 
forces  attempted  to  estimate  the  number  and  weight  of  attacks  required 
to  achieve  significant  damage  to  ski  sites.57  CROSSBOW  operations 
were  at  first  planned  in  accordance  with  these  estimates  but,  since  the 
figures  provided  by  operational  analysts  were  unreliable  from  the  be- 
ginning, bombing  efforts  very  quickly  came  to  depend  upon  empirical 
rather  than  theoretical  bases.58 

On  15  December  the  British  chiefs  of  staff,  considering  the  ineffec- 
tiveness of  early  efforts  by  the  tactical  air  forces,  agreed  that  an  all-out 
attack  by  the  Eighth  Air  Force  heavies  would  be  the  most  effective 
measure  available.  They  accordingly  requested  the  Eighth  Air  Force, 
which  during  this  period  found  opportunities  to  strike  primary  CBO 
targets  rigidly  restricted  by  winter  weather,*  to  give  “over-riding 
priority”  to  such  an  attack  as  soon  as  the  weather  permitted.59  The 
weather  continued  to  be  unfavorable,  and  it  was  not  until  the  day 
before  Christmas  that  the  Eighth  Air  Force  launched  its  first  major 
mission  against  the  chain  of  ski  sites.  Mission  No.  164,  the  largest 
Eighth  Air  Force  operation  to  date,  employed  more  than  1,300  air- 
craft. Escorted  by  P-38’s,  P-47’s,  and  P-5  i’s,  670  of  722  heavy  bombers 
dropped  1,700  tons  of  bombs  on  twenty-three  ski  sites.60  The  crews 
had  been  told  only  that  they  were  attacking  “special  military  instal- 
lations,” but  the  outside  world  was  for  the  first  time  explicitly  informed 
of  the  existence  of  the  new  German  threat.  The  New  York  Times 
announced  in  bold  headlines  that  U.S.  and  British  flyers  had  hit  the 
“Rocket  Gun  Coast”  and  in  an  editorial  commented:  “The  Germans 
have  now  created  a diversion.  They  have  at  least  won  a breathing  spell 
for  themselves  and  temporarily  . . . diverted  part  of  the  Anglo-Ameri- 
can air  power.  . . . The  threat  alone  has  succeeded  in  lightening  the 
weight  of  attack  upon  Germany.”61 

Not  until  December  1943  had  the  British  conveyed  to  their  Ameri- 

* See  discussion  above  in  Chap.  i. 


95 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


can  allies  the  full  measure  of  their  alarm  concerning  the  threat  of  new 
German  weapons.  Though  somewhat  nettled  by  this  delay,  American 
authorities  in  Washington  shared  the  uneasiness  existing  in  England, 
and  on  20  December  the  Joint  Chiefs  of  Staff  began  a survey  of  the 
“Implications  of  Recent  Intelligence  Regarding  Alleged  German  Se- 
cret Weapons.”62  Two  days  later  General  Marshall  requested  Lt.  Gen. 
Jacob  L.  Devers,  commanding  general  of  ETOUSA,  to  report  imme- 
diately on  CROSSBOW  countermeasures  in  force  and  under  con- 
sideration. The  following  day,  23  December,  Devers  briefed  Marshall 
on  information  available  to  ETOUSA  and  indicated  that  a courier 
was  leaving  England  that  night  to  bring  sketches  of  a ski  site  to  Wash- 
ington.03 At  the  suggestion  of  General  Marshall,  Secretary  of  War 
Stimson,  on  29  December,  appointed  a War  Department  committee 
“to  interpret  all  existing  information  on  German  secret  weapons  for 
long-range  attack  against  England  and  to  assist  in  determining  what 
countermeasures  may  be  taken.”64  Under  the  chairmanship  of  Maj. 
Gen.  Stephen  G.  Henry,  director  of  the  War  Department  New  De- 
velopments Division,  the  committee  was  directed  to  seek  “close  co- 
ordination between  the  War  Department,  Navy,  Army  Air  Forces, 
Army  Ground  Forces,  Army  Service  Forces,  and  the  United  King- 
dom” in  the  search  for  a solution  to  the  CROSSBOW  problem.65 

The  American  CROSSBOW  committee,  strongly  impressed  by  the 
hesitancy  of  British  leaders  to  reveal  the  true  nature  of  the  danger, 
found  in  their  delay  cause  for  fear  that  the  problem  was  possibly  even 
more  “acute”  than  had  been  indicated.  It  seemed  to  members  of  the 
committee  “rather  late  in  the  picture”  for  the  United  States  to  be  re- 
ceiving detailed  information,  and  at  their  first  meeting  early  in  January 
they  were  impressed  by  the  report  that  American  air  commanders  in 
Britain  had  learned  “only  three  weeks  ago”  what  they  were  bomb- 
ing.86 As  a result  General  Marshall  wrote  in  rather  strong  tones  to 
Field  Marshal  Sir  John  Dill,  chief  of  the  British  Joint  Staff  Mission  to 
America  and  the  senior  British  member  of  the  Combined  Chiefs  of 
Staff,  that  “this  matter  is  of  utmost  importance  to  our  minds  and  the 
United  States  is  ready  to  assist  the  British  with  all  of  its  military  and 
civilian  resources  to  combat  this  threat”  but  “the  preliminary  work  of 
the  Committee  indicates  that  we  cannot  lend  fullest  support  to  this 
project,  particularly  in  the  field  of  countermeasures,  unless  we  have 
full  information  on  the  British  progress  in  meeting  this  problem.”67 

Already  the  British  chiefs  of  staff  had  taken  up  with  COSSAC  in 
mid-December  the  question  of  whether  the  new  menace  called  for 

96 


CROSSBOW 


some  radical  revision  of  plans  for  OVERLORD.68  General  Morgan’s 
estimate  of  the  threat  to  OVERLORD  was  presented  to  the  British 
chiefs  of  staff  on  20  December.60  Any  appreciable  revision  of  the 
existing  invasion  plans  was  considered  impracticable,  but  COSSAC 
warned  that  the  threat  must  be  considered  as  capable  of  “prejudicing” 
an  assault  mounted  from  the  southern  coast  of  England.  The  initial 
American  estimates,  to  say  the  least,  were  gloomy.  In  its  first  report, 
the  War  Department’s  special  committee  admitted  that  it  saw  “no 
real  solution  to  the  problem.”70  An  earlier  estimate  of  the  situation  by 
AAF  Headquarters  had  suggested  the  extreme  possibilities  of  biolog- 
ical warfare,  gas  warfare,  and  the  use  of  revolutionary  explosives  of 
“unusually  violent  character,”  and  that  the  Germans  might  achieve  a 
stalemate  or  a cessation  of  the  Combined  Bomber  Offensive  in  conse- 
quence of  the  devastation  brought  to  England.  If  the  Germans  with- 
held their  attacks  until  D-day,  they  could  cause  “maximum  confusion” 
at  a most  critical  time  and  might  be  successful  in  entirely  disrupting 
the  invasion  operation.71 

These  estimates  suggested  the  need  for  a concentrated  Allied  en- 
deavor to  prevent  the  Germans  from  using  their  new  weapons  or,  at 
the  least,  to  reduce  the  scale  of  operations  achieved.  The  Allies  were 
also  required  to  consider  the  most  somber  implications  of  the  threat, 
the  use  of  gas  or  biological  warfare  and  the  possibility  that  the  Ger- 
mans were  in  a position  to  use  atomic  energy,  in  which  field  they  were 
known  to  be  well  advanced;  accordingly  the  Joint  Chiefs  of  Staff  took 
the  precaution  of  directing  the  supreme  Allied  commander  to  prepare 
to  take  countermeasures  if  the  Germans  introduced  either  gas  or  bio- 
logical warfare  in  launching  their  V- weapon  attack  against  Eng- 
land.72 Among  the  varied  proposals  for  countering  the  threat  was  one 
suggesting  that  the  Allies  might  launch  a gas  attack  against  the  ski 
sites,  but  this  was  dismissed,73  as  was  a proposal  to  undertake  a ground 
reconnaissance  in  force  of  the  French  coast.74  Though  there  appeared 
to  be  not  much  reason  for  satisfaction  with  the  early  air  CROSSBOW 
operations,75  circumstances  argued  that  the  Allies  must  depend  chiefly 
on  a continued  air  effort,  and  opinion  in  the  United  States  came  quick- 
ly to  a focus  on  the  problem  of  improving  the  bombing  techniques 
employed  against  ski  sites.78 

The  Eglin  Field  Tests 

General  Arnold  was  particularly  interested  in  the  development  of 
effective  minimum-altitude  attacks  by  actual  field  test.  He  felt  there 


97 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


had  been  too  much  guesswork  and  pure  speculation  in  estimating  the 
effect  of  CROSSBOW  bombing  countermeasures.  He  was  deter- 
mined, in  so  far  as  possible,  to  place  at  least  one  phase  of  the  CROSS- 
BOW problem  on  a pragmatic  basis.77  On  12  January  1944  General 
Marshall  approved  the  suggestion  of  the  War  Department  committee 
that  the  Army  Air  Forces  be  given,  as  a project  of  the  highest  priority, 
“the  technical  and  tactical  inquiry  into  the  means,  methods,  and  effec- 
tiveness of  air  attacks  against  CROSSBOW  targets  in  France.”78  It 
seems  to  have  been  assumed  that  the  study  would  be  undertaken  pri- 
marily in  the  theater,  close  at  hand  to  actual  operations,  but  instead  it 
was  shortly  decided  to  assign  the  major  responsibility  to  the  AAF 
Proving  Ground  Command  at  Eglin  Field,  Florida. 

Conventional  directives  would  not  do  in  so  urgent  a situation.  On 
the  morning  of  25  January,  General  Arnold  telephoned  Brig.  Gen. 
Grandison  Gardner,  in  command  at  Eglin  Field.  At  first,  General 
Arnold  spoke  in  evasive  terms:  “Must  be  careful  what  I say,  but  may- 
be you’ll  recognize  what  I mean  when  I say  that  about  150  of  them 
located  north  coast  of  France  . . . shaped  like  skis.”  He  then  indicated 
the  purpose  of  his  call:  “I  want  some  buildings  reproduced.  I want  to 
make  simulated  attacks  with  a new  weapon.  I want  the  job  done  in 
days  not  'weeks . It  will  take  a hell  of  a lot  of  concrete  . . . give  it  first 
priority  and  complete  it  in  days— weeks  are  too  long.”79 

General  Gardner  immediately  mobilized  the  full  resources  of  the 
800,000-acre  proving  ground  and  its  thousands  of  personnel.  With  ut- 
most secrecy  the  Army  Air  Forces  duplicated  in  the  remote  pine  bar- 
rens of  the  Florida  Panhandle  the  construction  so  closely  observed  on 
the  Channel  coast  of  France.  The  task  assigned  to  the  Proving  Ground 
Command  was  absorbing  and  exacting:  the  reproduction  and  destruc- 
tion, by  various  means,  of  a series  of  German  ski  sites. 

Building  materials  were  scarce,  and  neither  time  nor  security  would 
permit  conventional  negotiations  for  construction  priorities.  Proving 
Ground  Command  purchasing  agents  roved  the  country  for  hundreds 
of  miles  around.  Construction  materials  were  rushed  by  air,  train,  and 
truck  into  the  secret  ranges  of  Eglin  Field.  Working  in  twelve-hour 
shifts,  thousands  of  civilian  and  military  laborers  assembled  concrete, 
steel,  lumber,  brick,  and  building  blocks  into  a series  of  key  target 
buildings  and  entire  ski  sites.  The  Army  Ground  Forces  sent  camou- 
flage units  and  a full  antiaircraft  battalion  to  prepare  the  Eglin  Field 
CROSSBOW  sites  for  effective  tests  of  German  defenses.80 

98 


CROSSBOW 


Hardly  had  the  concrete  set  when  every  appropriate  type  and  vari- 
ety of  weapon  available  to  the  AAF  was  thrown  against  replicas  of 
the  German  installations.  As  additional  target  buildings  and  sites  were 
completed,  the  success  of  each  type  of  munition,  the  effectiveness  and 
vulnerability  of  attacking  aircraft,  and  the  efficiency  of  every  possible 
tactical  operation  were  scrupulously  checked  and  analyzed  by  teams 
of  military  and  civilian  experts.  General  Gardner  telephoned  General 
Arnold  concerning  the  progress  of  each  day’s  attacks.  Periodic  re- 
ports, indicating  from  the  first  the  superiority  of  minimum-altitude 
attacks,  were  relayed  from  Washington  to  the  theater.81  On  19  Feb- 
ruary General  Arnold  and  Air  Marshals  Bottomley  and  Inglis  were 
present  at  Eglin  Field  to  observe  various  methods  of  attacks  against 
CROSSBOW  targets.  When  General  Gardner  was  convinced  the 
Proving  Ground  had  thoroughly  tested  the  validity  of  every  available 
weapon  and  method  of  attack,  he  submitted,  on  1 March  1944,  a final 
report  outlining  the  findings.82  The  rigorous  and  exhaustive  tests  at 
Eglin  Field  verified  beyond  question  the  opinion  of  the  War  Depart- 
ment’s CROSSBOW  committee,  of  General  Arnold,83  and  of  Ameri- 
can air  commanders  in  England:  minimum-altitude  attacks  by  fighters, 
if  properly  delivered,  were  the  most  effective  and  economical  aerial 
countermeasure  against  ski  sites;  medium-  and  high-altitude  bombing 
attacks,  which  threatened  a serious  diversion  from  POINTBLANK 
operations,  were  the  least  effective  and  most  wasteful  bombing  counter- 
measures. 

The  Proving  Ground  Command,  Army  Air  Forces  Board,  and  AAF 
Headquarters  joined  in  a strong  recommendation  that  the  findings  of 
the  Eglin  tests  “be  made  available  without  delay  to  the  Air  command- 
ers charged  with  the  destruction  of  CROSSBOW  targets,”84  and 
within  a week  after  the  report  had  been  submitted,  a special  mission 
of  American  officers,  headed  by  General  Gardner,  had  arrived  in  the 
theater.85  General  Gardner,  or  other  members  of  the  mission,  visited 
SHAEF,  ETOUSA,  and  every  major  air  headquarters  in  England  and 
discussed  the  Eglin  Field  test  findings  with  General  Eisenhower  and 
with  leading  British  and  American  air  commanders. 

The  Continuing  Debate 

The  Proving  Ground  report  was  enthusiastically  received  by  Amer- 
ican air  officers  and  appeared  to  elicit  interest  among  British  authori- 
ties,86 a reception  which  seemed  to  promise  that  the  Proving  Ground 


99 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

technique  for  destruction  of  German  ski  sites  would  be  immediately 
and  widely  employed  in  the  growing  offensive  against  CROSSBOW 
installations.  But  the  results  were  quite  different  from  those  at  first 
anticipated.  The  efforts  of  the  American  CROSSBOW  mission,  in 
fact,  precipitated  a controversy  over  bombing  methods  which  is  dif- 
ficult to  understand  and  which  was  never  resolved. 

Spaatz,  Vandenberg,  and  Brereton  strongly  supported  the  introduc- 
tion of  the  Eglin  Field  minimum-altitude  technique  into  wide-scale 
operations.87  The  British,  however,  continued  to  favor  employment 
of  heavy  bombers  as  the  major  instrument  for  the  CROSSBOW  offen- 
sive, principally  on  the  ground  that  fighter  attacks  had,  in  some  in- 
stances, been  costly  and  ineffective  in  the  early  months  of  CROSS- 
BOW operations.  Leigh-Mallory,  the  principal  British  air  commander 
concerned  with  CROSSBOW  operations,  was  inflexibly  opposed  to  a 
reduction  of  bomber  operations  in  favor  of  fighter  attacks.  On  4 
March  he  had  written  to  Spaatz:  “I  think  it  is  clear  now  that  the  best 
weapon  for  the  rocket  sites  is  the  high  altitude  bomber.”88  His  prefer- 
ence for  heavy  bombers  was  ostensibly  based  upon  his  belief  that 
fighters  were  especially  vulnerable  to  German  defenses  around 
CROSSBOW  sites.  The  Germans  had,  it  was  true,  steadily  increased 
their  flak  defenses  in  the  Pas-de-Calais  and  Cherbourg  areas.  There 
was  evidence,  however,  from  both  British  and  American  sources  that 
fighter  attacks  currently  employed  in  the  theater  were  superior  to 
bomber  operations  both  in  accuracy  and  in  economy.89 

There  was  some  British  skepticism  concerning  the  validity  of  the 
Eglin  Field  ski-site  constructions.  Apparently  the  British  regarded  the 
Eglin  Field  structures  to  be  more  substantial  than  their  German  proto- 
types. They  were  therefore  inclined  to  disregard  the  experimental 
evidence  that  1,000-  and  2,000-pound  delayed-action  bombs  delivered 
by  low-flying  fighter  aircraft  were  superior  to  the  250-  and  500-pound 
bombs  normally  employed  against  ski  sites.  In  conveying  to  General 
Arnold  their  distrust  of  the  Eglin  Field  test  data,  the  British  fell  back, 
in  several  instances,  upon  some  rather  curious  logic.  They  failed  to 
observe,  for  example,  that  if  the  Eglin  Field  sites  were  actually  more 
substantial  than  German  sites,  the  target  accuracy  and  economy  of  the 
Eglin  Field  method  would  be  all  the  more  effective.90  As  the  diversion 
from  other  commitments  grew  in  magnitude,  Spaatz,  Vandenberg, 
and  Brereton  frequently  conveyed  to  General  Arnold  their  rising  con- 
cern about  the  CROSSBOW  diversion.91  Leigh-Mallory,  perhaps  the 


100 


CROSSBOW 


most  obdurate  opponent  of  minimum-altitude  bombing  of  CROSS- 
BOW sites  by  American  forces,  drew  support  from  a revision  of  the 
CCS  directive  of  13  February  1944,  in  which  CROSSBOW  was  listed 
as  the  second  principal  task  of  the  heavy  bombers.*  Leigh-Mallory 
wrote  to  Arnold  late  in  March  1944:  “I  feel  certain  we  must  continue 
to  rely  on  the  Heavies.”92 

Before  receiving  this  letter,  General  Arnold  had  written  a strong 
letter  to  Air  Marshal  Sir  William  L.  Welsh,  of  the  British  Joint  Staff 
Mission,  requesting  him  to  inform  the  Air  Ministry  of  Arnold’s  opin- 
ion that  the  time  had  come  for  “unusual  measures  in  securing  a proper 
evaluation”  of  the  CROSSBOW  situation.  “I  wonder,”  General 
Arnold  inquired,  “if  Leigh-Mallory,  Bottomley,  and  Inglis  now  feel 
that  every  effort  has  been  directed  to  evaluate  this  problem  once  and 
for  all.”93  Arnold  did  not,  of  course,  underestimate  the  seriousness  of 
the  V-weapon  threat.  He  urged,  simply,  as  he  had  in  earlier  months 
and  would  continue  to  do,  the  avoidance  of  an  unnecessary  diversion 
in  CROSSBOW  operations  and  the  application  of  the  most  effective 
and  economical  measures  to  the  destruction  of  the  German  installations. 
His  appeal  to  the  Air  Ministry  did  not,  apparently,  meet  with  suc- 
cess, for  the  CROSSBOW  diversion  continued  to  grow  in  magnitude.* 
When  Leigh- Mallory’s  communication  reached  Washington,  Arnold 
replied:  “I  must  state  quite  frankly  my  disappointment  that  attacks 
by  fighters  have  not  been  more  effective.”  He  repeated  his  earlier 
warning:  the  continued  and  unnecessary  diversion  of  heavy  bombers 
“at  the  expense  of  the  Combined  Bomber  Offensive  is  in  my  opinion 
unsound.”94 

From  the  American  point  of  view  the  evidence  seemed  to  support 
an  earlier  report  that  the  CROSSBOW  program  was  bogging  down  in 
“an  enormous  amount  of  theoretical  analysis,  confusing  technical  in- 
telligence and  opportunity  to  test  various  theories.”95  General  Spaatz 
wrote  frequently  to  Arnold  of  the  increasing  dissatisfaction  in  the 
theater.  There  was  no  cohesive  controlling  organization,  Spaatz  de- 
clared, and  in  consequence  air  efforts  were  being  restricted  or  di- 
verted because  of  “control  by  commanders  who  have  only  limited  ob- 
jectives.”98 A paper  from  USSTAF  reported  the  glossing-over  of  the 

* See  above,  p.  28. 

+ Arnold’s  letter  to  Welsh  was  dispatched  30  March  1944.  During  that  month  2,800 
sorties  and  4,150  tons  of  bombs  were  expended  in  Anglo-American  CROSSBOW 
operations.  In  April  the  effort  was  increased  to  4,150  sorties  and  7,500  tons  of  bombs. 
(Coffin  Report,  App.  J,  pp.  184,  186.) 


IOI 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


realities  of  the  CROSSBOW  situation  and  noted  the  lack  of  provision 
“for  the  best  use  of  available  forces  in  the  best  way.”91 

The  conflict  over  policy  increased  as  D-day  approached.  While  the 
British  held  firmly  to  their  refusal  to  adopt  the  Eglin  Field  technique 
of  minimum-altitude  bombing,  and  heavy  bombers  were  diverted  in 
increasing  numbers  from  POINTBLANK  operations,  there  was  a re- 
surgence of  acute  alarm  in  England  over  the  German  V-weapon 
threat.  In  February,  ground  sources  had  reported  the  appearance  of  a 
new  type  of  pilotless  aircraft  launching  site.98  The  “Modified  Sites” 
were  very  simple  installations,  often  concealed  in  farm  structures  or 
in  small  manufacturing  plants.  They  could  be  quickly  constructed, 
easily  camouflaged,  were  difficult  to  detect,  and,  once  discovered, 
were  very  poor  targets  because  of  their  small  size. 

For  the  third  time,  orders  were  issued  for  an  aerial  reconnaissance 
of  the  entire  French  coast.99  Many  of  the  modified  sites  were  so  ex- 
pertly camouflaged  they  escaped  detection  altogether,  but  by  1 2 June, 
when  firings  began,  66  modified  sites  had  been  identified.100  The  Ger- 
mans, meanwhile,  continued  to  employ  large  labor  forces  in  the  repair 
of  bombed  large  and  ski  sites,  whether  in  an  attempt  to  prepare  for 
their  eventual  use  or  simply  as  a means  of  diverting  Allied  bombing 
effort  from  the  CBO,  the  Allies  did  not  know.*  The  discovery  of 
modified  sites  and  continued  construction  at  the  other  sites  required 
the  Allied  commanders  to  consider  the  CROSSBOW  situation  once 
more.  On  18  April  Sir  Hastings  Ismay,  Secretary  of  the  War  Cabinet, 
informed  General  Eisenhower  of  the  War  Cabinet’s  view  that  more 
intensive  bombing  efforts  should  be  made  against  the  large  sites  and  ski 
sites.  “The  Chiefs  of  Staff,”  Ismay  stated  to  Eisenhower,  “consider 
that  this  is  one  of  those  matters  affecting  the  security  of  the  British 
Isles  which  is  envisaged  in  . . . the  directive  issued  to  you  by  the  Com- 
bined Chiefs  of  Staff  on  27th  March  1944.”101  General  Eisenhower 
was  requested  to  direct  that  CROSSBOW  operations  be  accelerated 
and  be  given  “priority  over  all  other  air  operations  except  POINT- 
BLANK  until  such  time  as  the  threat  is  overcome.”102 

The  supreme  Allied  commander  acceded  to  the  wishes  of  the  War 
Cabinet.  In  fact,  he  went  beyond  the  terms  of  the  request.  Following 

• General  Dornberger,  in  an  interview  with  the  author,  reported  Hitler  as  saying 
“if  the  bombs  were  dropped  on  these  sites,  they  wouldn’t  drop  on  Germany”  and 
that  for  this  reason  the  construction  should  be  continued.  Von  Braun  gives  a some- 
what different  explanation:  “Todt  went  ahead  for  a long  time  just  to  show  . . . [his 
organization’s]  capacity  to  build  in  the  face  of  heavy  bombing.” 

102 


CROSSBOW 


Eisenhower’s  instructions,  Tedder  informed  Spaatz  on  19  April  of  the 
decision  that  “for  the  time  being”  attacks  on  CROSSBOW  targets 
were  to  be  given  priority  over  all  other  air  operations.103  This  action 
caused  acute  concern  at  AAF  Headquarters  in  Washington.  For 
weeks  General  Arnold  had  consistently  supported  minimum-altitude 
attacks  against  CROSSBOW  targets  without  effecting  a change  in 
theater  policy,  and  early  in  May,  at  his  instruction,  his  headquarters 
reviewed  the  air  operations  conducted  against  V-weapons  in  the 
second  half  of  April.  CROSSBOW  operations,  AAF  Headquarters 
concluded,  had  grown  out  of  proportion  to  the  importance  of  the 
target  or  had  become  so  uneconomical  “as  to  be  wasteful,  and  should 
be  curtailed.”104  Complaints  from  General  Spaatz  corroborated  this 
view.  He  had  informed  Washington  of  pre-OVERLORD  demands 
upon  him  so  exacting  that  he  seriously  doubted  his  ability  to  meet 
them.105  The  CROSSBOW  diversion,  in  the  opinion  of  AAF  Head- 
quarters, had  reached  such  proportions  that  “it  may  well  make  the 
difference  between  success  and  failure  in  accomplishing  our  pre- 
OVERLORD  objectives.”106 

To  support  its  conclusions  concerning  the  CROSSBOW  situation, 
the  AAF  prepared  for  dispatch  to  the  theater  a strong  cable  which 
indicated  the  magnitude  of  the  diversion,  noted  the  failure  of  Ameri- 
can forces  to  employ  minimum-altitude  attacks  against  CROSSBOW 
targets,  and  suggested  re-examination  of  the  Eglin  Field  report.  The 
Office  of  the  Chief  of  Staff,  while  in  agreement  with  the  essential  pur- 
pose of  the  proposed  cable,  objected  to  the  implied  “attempt  to  run 
General  Eisenhower’s  operations”  and  insisted  upon  revision  of  the 
message.  After  several  days  of  negotiations  between  AAF  Headquar- 
ters and  the  War  Department  General  Staff,  a cable  from  which  “a 
number  of  teeth  were  drawn”  and  its  original  meaning  “entirely 
changed”  was  agreed  upon  and  dispatched  to  General  Eisenhower.107 

Little  or  no  change  in  operational  policy  followed  this  last  effort  of 
General  Arnold  to  remedy  the  CROSSBOW  situation,*  even  though 
certain  tests  in  the  theater  tended  to  confirm  the  Eglin  Field  tests. 
On  6 May  General  Spaatz  informed  Arnold  of  a trial  minimum-alti- 

* In  May  the  Allied  forces  dispatched  4,600  sorties  and  dropped  4,600  tons  of 
bombs  against  CROSSBOW  targets.  Of  these  totals,  VIII  Bomber  Command  con- 
tributed 800  sorties  and  2,600  tons',  AEAF  3,800  sorties  and  2,000  tons.  RAF  Bomber 
Command  was  inactive  against  CROSSBOW  targets  during  this  period.  The  Eighth 
operated  chiefly  against  large  sites;  AEAF  against  ski  sites.  (Coffin  Report,  App.  J; 
CROSSBOW  Countermeasures  Progress  Report,  Nos.  38  and  39.) 

103 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


tude  attack  carried  out  by  the  365th  Fighter  Group.  After  intensive 
training  and  briefing  by  Eglin  Field  officers,  four  fighter  pilots  at- 
tacked four  ski  sites  with  P~47’s  carrying  two  1,000-pound  delayed- 
fuze  SAP  bombs.  Though  very  heavy  machine-gun  fire  was  encoun- 
tered at  each  site,  three  of  the  four  attacking  P-47’s  achieved  Category 
A damage  (sufficient  to  neutralize  a ski  site  for  several  months) , with 
no  loss  of  aircraft.108  The  Eglin  Field  report  had  established  the  P-38 
as  twice  as  effective  as  the  P-47  in  low-altitude  ski-site  attacks  and  had 
recommended,  for  maximum  damage,  the  use  of  2,000-pound  bombs. 
But  the  first  fighter  pilots  to  use  the  Eglin  Field  technique  in  the 
theater  had,  with  a less  effective  aircraft  for  this  purpose,  inflicted 
Category  A damage  at  an  expenditure  of  one  ton  of  explosive  per  site. 
This  was  in  contrast  to  the  expenditure  of  1 ,947  tons  per  site  by  heavy 
bombers  for  similar  damage  in  the  last  two  weeks  of  April.109  Further 
evidence  of  the  superiority  of  minimum-altitude  attack  was  provided 
by  General  Doolittle  at  the  end  of  May.  In  reviewing  Eighth  Air 
Force  operations  against  CROSSBOW  targets,  he  wrote  to  General 
Arnold  that  “Mosquitoes  are  the  most  effective  type  of  aircraft.”  The 
British  fighter,  General  Doolittle  stated,  had  achieved  the  highest  de- 
gree of  damage  with  less  tonnage,  fewer  attacking  sorties,  and  fewer 
losses  than  any  other  type  of  aircraft.110  As  this  report  suggests,  the 
British  had  made  some  concessions  to  AAF  demands,  but  the  weight 
of  the  effort  was  still  carried  by  the  medium  and  heavy  bombers. 

By  the  spring  of  1944  a more  or  less  fixed  pattern  of  CROSSBOW 
bombing  operations  emerged.  Massive  raids  by  heavy  bombers  of  the 
Eighth  Air  Force— principally  B-i7’s— were  supplemented  by  almost 
continual  attacks  (weather  permitting)  flown  by  medium  bombers  of 
the  Ninth  and  the  RAF,  by  smaller-scale  attacks  at  frequent  intervals 
by  heavy  bombers  from  the  Eighth,  and  by  fighter  and  fighter- 
bomber  attacks.  The  Eighth’s  heavy  bombers  usually  attacked  in 
boxes  of  six  at  heights  varying  from  12,000  to  20,000  feet.111  In  the 
offensive’s  earlier  months  the  Eighth  relied  entirely  on  visual  sighting, 
but  in  the  late  winter  and  early  spring  radar  bombing  was  used  with 
increasing  frequency.112  Medium  bombers— usually  B-2  6’s  from  IX 
Bomber  Command  and  B-25’s  from  British  components  of  AEAF— 
most  often  attacked  in  boxes  of  from  twelve  to  eighteen  aircraft  and 
from  heights  between  10,000  and  12,000  feet.113  For  visual  sighting, 
weather  was  always  the  decisive  factor;  with  the  Norden  sight  the 
bombardier  had  to  pick  up  the  target  at  distances  of  at  least  six  miles. 

104 


M>tT 


Left:  LAUNCHING  V-2 


Left:  LAUNCHING  V-2  A- WEAPON  SITE  IN  NORMANDY 


>■« 

• .. w'  Wm" 

CROSSBOW 


The  large  sites,  though  fairly  conspicuous,  were  always  difficult,  for 
they  were  most  vulnerable  at  points  that  required  a precise  attack.  The 
more  inconspicuous  and  often  superbly  camouflaged  ski  sites,  even  in 
the  best  of  weather,  uniformly  presented  a most  difficult  aiming  prob- 
lem, as  bombing  directives  usually  called  for  destruction  of  a single 
key  building  within  the  ski  site  itself.114 

Relying  largely  on  heavy  and  medium  bombers,  the  Allies  inflicted 
Category  A damage  on  ski  sites  107  times  (including  repeats)  between 
the  inauguration  of  ski-site  attacks  in  December  1943  and  the  abandon- 
ment, early  in  May  1944,  of  operations  against  this  type  of  target. 
Of  this  number,  the  Eighth  Air  Force  accounted  for  35,  the  Ninth  for 
39,  and  British  components  of  AEAF  for  33.  B-iy’s,  expending  an 
average  tonnage  of  195.1  per  Category  A strike,  accounted  for  30  of 
the  Eighth’s  35  successful  strikes,  as  contrasted  with  5 by  B-24’s, 
which  expended  an  average  of  401.4  tons.  B-2  6’s  achieved  26  Category 
A strikes,  at  an  average  tonnage  of  223.5.  B-25’s  were  credited  with 
ioi  Category  A strikes  for  an  average  of  244  tons,  and  A-2o’s  (Bos- 
tons and  Havocs)  accounted  for  4 Category  A strikes,  with  an  av- 
erage tonnage  of  313.  Among  the  fighter-type  aircraft  employed  dur- 
ing this  period,  the  Mosquito  led  with  an  average  tonnage  of  39.8  for 
igi  Category  A strikes.  Spitfire  bombers  achieved^  such  strikes  with 
an  average  of  50.3  tons.115 

On  the  evening  of  12  June,  when  D-day  had  come  and  gone  with 
no  sign  of  offensive  activity  from  the  network  of  CROSSBOW  sites, 
Allied  leaders  were  inclined  to  feel  that  the  threat  had  been  met  and 
overcome,  though  at  a heavy  cost.  Since  the  beginning  of  December 
1943  the  Anglo-American  forces  had  expended  a total  effort  of  36,200 
tons  of  bombs  in  25,150  bombing  sorties,  and  had  lost  771  airmen 
and  154  aircraft.116  Of  these  totals  the  AAF  was  credited  with  17,600 
tons  in  5,950  sorties  by  the  VIII  Bomber  Command,  and  a large  share 
of  the  15,300  sorties  and  15,100  tons  expended  by  AEAF.*  In  these 
operations  the  Americans  had  lost  610  men  and  79  aircraft,  462  men 
and  49  aircraft  in  heavy  bomber  operations  by  the  Eighth  and  148 

* AEAF,  which  controlled  the  operations  of  both  the  Ninth  Air  Force  and  Second 
TAF,  kept  combined  rather  than  separate  records  of  sorties  and  bomb  tonnages.  Some 
indication  of  the  scale  of  the  American  effort  in  the  total  operations  is  indicated, 
however,  in  the  fact  that  the  Ninth  accounted  for  more  than  one-third  of  the  sites 
neutralized  during  the  period  5 December  1943-6  June  1944.  (BAM  [AHB],  File  77 
[reports].)  Of  the  25,150  sorties  and  36,200  tons  expended  during  all  CROSSBOW 
operations  prior  to  D-day,  RAF  Bomber  Command  accounted  for  only  3,900  sorties 
and  3,500  tons  and  did  not  achieve  any  Category  A damage.  (Coffin  Report.) 

105 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


men  and  30  aircraft  in  medium  bomber  operations  by  the  Ninth.  Since 
the  conclusion  of  the  Eglin  Field  tests  in  February  the  Allies  had  ex- 
pended 16,500  tons  of  bombs  in  11,550  sorties.  On  10  June,  it  was 
estimated,  eighty-three  of  the  ninety-six  ski  sites  had  received  Cate- 
gory A damage.117  The  modified  sites  appeared  for  the  moment  to 
offer  no  real  threat  and  the  large  sites  to  be  heavily  damaged.118 

During  the  first  phase  of  Allied  CROSSBOW  operations  there  had 
been  conflict  of  opinion,  confusion  of  policy,  and  apparent  wastage 
of  materiel  and  effort.  Allied  nerves  had  time  and  again  been  set  on 
edge,  if  not  frayed,  and  on  the  evening  of  12  June  1944  no  member  of 
the  Allied  forces,  at  any  level,  knew  exactly  what  the  new  German 
weapons  might  accomplish.  Nevertheless,  because  they  had  responded 
to  the  threat  as  best  they  could  and  because  they  were  supplied  with 
enough  air  power  to  afford  the  diversion,  the  Allies  achieved  one  im- 
pressive and  undeniable  accomplishment  in  the  first  phase  of  their  sus- 
tained, if  wasteful,  CROSSBOW  operations.  Though  with  remark- 
able improvisation  the  Germans  did  find  means  for  launching  large 
numbers  of  the  new  weapons  against  England,  one  truly  bizarre  fact 
remains.  From  the  vast  network  of  steel  and  concrete  flung  out  for 
hundreds  of  miles  along  the  coast  of  France  the  Germans  succeeded  in 
launching  only  a single  missile  against  England,  a V-i  that  misfired.11" 

To  what  extent  the  destruction  of  the  original  launching  sites  along 
the  French  coast  was  responsible  for  the  delay  in  the  inauguration  of 
the  V-i  offensive  is  difficult  to  determine  with  any  exactitude.  The 
development  of  the  modified  launching  sites  used  in  firing  the  V-i 
clearly  represents  a late  improvisation  designed  to  meet  the  threat  of 
Allied  bombing,  and  there  is  evidence  that  adequate  supplies  of  the 
V-i  were  available  several  months  before  the  first  launching.  But  there 
is  also  evidence  that  modified  sites,  which  were  of  simple  construction, 
existed  in  considerable  numbers  by  the  end  of  April.  Just  why  the 
Germans  should  have  waited  until  after  D-day  to  launch  their  attack 
remains  thus  a mystery  unless  it  be  assumed  that  technical,  produc- 
tion, or  other  difficulties  not  directly  related  to  Allied  bombing  con- 
tributed to  the  delay.  The  cautious  conclusion  of  the  U.S.  Strategic 
Bombing  Survey  that  the  Allied  offensive  “probably  delayed  the  be- 
ginning of  launching  by  3 to  4 months”  seems  to  have  more  justifica- 
tion than  does  the  credit  for  a six-month  delay  awarded  by  almost  all 
other  Allied  studies. 

106 


CHAPTER  5 


THE  NINTH  AIR  FORCE 

WHILE  the  Eighth  Air  Force  pressed  home  the  bomber 
offensive  against  Germany,  the  Ninth  Air  Force  pre- 
pared for  its  role  in  the  crowning  offensive  of  the  war  in 
Europe— the  invasion  of  Normandy.  Though  called  upon  to  support 
the  CBO  in  its  later  phases  and  required  to  assume  a major  share  in 
the  Allied  campaign  against  CROSSBOW  targets,  the  Ninth  Air 
Force  had  as  its  primary  mission  assistance  to  the  amphibious  landings 
in  France  and  cooperation  with  the  ground  armies  in  their  subsequent 
sweep  into  the  heart  of  Germany.  For  the  accomplishment  of  that  mis- 
sion this  second  of  the  American  air  forces  in  ETO  was  transformed, 
within  a period  of  seven  and  one-half  months,  from  little  more  than  a 
name  into  the  most  powerful  single  tactical  air  force  engaged  on  any 
of  the  world’s  battle  fronts. 

Prior  to  the  summer  of  1943  it  had  been  anticipated  that  the  VIII 
Air  Support  Command,  established  in  1942,*  would  be  developed  into 
a tactical  air  force  for  support  of  the  invasion.  On  that  assumption 
Brig.  Gen.  Haywood  S.  Hansell,  Jr.,  by  July  1943  had  drafted  for 
COSSAC  a detailed  build-up  plan  which  proved  to  be  a remarkably 
accurate  forecast  of  the  tactical  forces  to  be  deployed  by  the  AAF  in 
support  of  the  invasion  of  Normandy.1  But  General  Arnold,  having  in 
that  same  month  selected  Brereton  for  command  of  these  forces,  de- 
cided in  August  on  the  organization  in  ETO  of  a separate  tactical 
air  force  and  the  transfer  to  the  European  theater  of  the  Ninth  Air 
Force,  Brereton’s  old  command  in  the  Middle  East.+ 

The  combat  units  and  most  of  the  service  units  currently  serving 
with  the  Ninth  were  reassigned  to  the  Twelfth  Air  Force,  while  the 
air  force  headquarters  and  three  command  headquarters  prepared  for 

* See  Vol.  II,  634,  642.  1 Ibid.,  642-43. 

IO7 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


the  move  to  England.2  On  a visit  to  Eaker  in  September,  Brereton 
completed  arrangements  for  the  movement  of  his  staffs  from  Egypt 
and  for  the  transfer  of  combat  and  service  units  from  the  Eighth  Air 
Force  to  the  Ninth,  and  then  went  on  to  Washington  for  a briefing  on 
build-up  plans.3  While  Brereton  was  in  Washington,  the  headquarters 
staffs  of  the  Ninth  and  of  its  bomber,  fighter,  and  service  commands, 
plus  a handful  of  small  headquarters  service  units,  chiefly  signal  com- 
panies, began  the  move  from  Egypt  to  the  United  Kingdom.  The  ad- 
vance echelon  left  Cairo  by  air  on  28  September,  and  additional  air 
echelons  followed  at  intervals  until  the  close-out  party  under  Brig. 
Gen.  Victor  H.  Strahm,  chief  of  staff  of  the  Ninth,  departed  on  18 
October.  Before  the  end  of  November,  all  of  the  “boys  with  sand  in 
their  shoes”  had  arrived  in  England  and  had  been  assigned  to  their 
stations.4 

Brereton’s  return  to  England  and  his  assumption  of  command  on  1 6 
October  was  the  starting  signal  for  the  Ninth,  which  inherited  little 
more  than  its  name,  its  commanding  general,  and  the  nuclei  of  four 
experienced  headquarters  staffs  from  its  antecedent  in  the  Middle  East. 
On  the  preceding  day  the  Eighth  Air  Force  had  transferred  to  the 
Ninth  the  whole  VIII  Air  Support  Command  and  the  VIII  Tactical 
Air  Service  Area  Command.  Down  to  the  end  of  1943  most  of  the 
Ninth’s  units  and  men  came  from  the  Eighth  Air  Force.®  Thereafter, 
the  great  bulk  of  the  more  than  170,000  troops  who  manned  the 
Ninth  on  D-day  came  from  the  United  States. 

Organization  and  Build-up 

The  task  of  placing  the  Ninth  Air  Force  within  the  organizational 
framework  of  the  European  theater  did  not  prove  to  be  easy.  After 
15  December  1943,  when  AEAF  assumed  operational  control  of  the 
Ninth,8  the  new  air  force  found  itself  in  the  position  of  a vassal  owing 
homage  to  two  suzerains  who  had  conflicting  conceptions  of  their 
authority,  for  General  Eaker’s  United  States  Army  Air  Forces  in  the 
United  Kingdom*  retained  administrative  control,  a control  which 
passed  in  January  to  USSTAF.  General  Spaatz  assumed  administra- 
tive control  over  all  American  air  forces  in  the  theater  as  of  20  Janu- 
ary,7 and  soon  found  himself  in  conflict  with  Leigh-Mallory  over  the 
training  of  Ninth  Air  Force  units  for  participation  in  OVERLORD. 

Spaatz  had  no  doubts  about  the  extent  of  his  prerogatives.  On  24 

• See  Voi.  II,  643,  743-44. 

108 


THE  NINTH  AIR  FORCE 


February  he  addressed  an  official  letter  to  Brereton  in  which  he  stated 
categorically:  “The  Commanding  General,  USSTAF,  will  exercise 
control  of  all  administrative  and  training  matters  pertaining  to  the 
Ninth  Air  Force,  and  will  assume  direct  responsibility  to  higher  head- 
quarters for  the  proper  performance  of  those  functions.”8  Thus  was  it 
made  clear  to  both  the  AEAF  and  the  Ninth  Air  Force  that  USSTAF 
would  suffer  no  transgression  of  its  sovereignty.  For  Brereton,  who 
had  visions  of  a Ninth  Air  Force  independent  of  both  USSTAF  and 
the  AEAF,  there  was  no  other  choice  but  to  comply.  For  Leigh- 
Mallory  it  was  another  demonstration  of  the  inadequacy  of  his  powers 
as  commander  of  the  Allied  tactical  air  forces. 

During  1943  tactical  air  force  planners  had  assumed  that  the  Ninth 
Air  Force  would  become  increasingly  independent  of  the  administra- 
tive and  logistical  control  of  the  theater  air  headquarters  in  the  United 
Kingdom.  With  its  lodgment  on  the  continent,  it  was  contemplated 
that  the  Ninth  would  sever  its  connection  with  the  United  Kingdom 
base  and  rely  directly  on  the  United  States  for  its  base  support  and  on 
theater  headquarters  for  its  administration.  General  Brereton  and  his 
service  commander,  Maj.  Gen.  Henry  J.  F.  Miller,  acted  on  this 
assumption  during  1943  and  early  1944,  establishing  a base  air  depot 
under  the  IX  AFSC  and  otherwise  taking  steps  to  free  themselves  of 
reliance  on  the  theater  air  service  command.®  This  tendency  was  given 
impetus  by  the  widely  current  Ninth  Air  Force  belief  that  USSTAF 
discriminated  against  the  Ninth  in  favor  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force  when 
allocating  men,  units,  aircraft,  and  supplies.  In  response  to  representa- 
tions from  Brereton  and  Leigh-Mallory,  USSTAF  maintained  that 
the  allocation  of  men  and  equipment  was  governed  by  operational 
priorities  and  that  since  POINTBLANK  held  first  priority  for  the 
air  forces  in  the  European  theater,  the  needs  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force 
must  be  met  first.10  In  spite  of  the  logic  of  the  situation,  this  explana- 
tion could  not  satisfy  an  organization  which  was  under  intense  pres- 
sure to  build  and  prepare  a new  air  force  for  tactical  operations  on  the 
continent  in  the  near  future.  But  the  Ninth  Air  Force  was  in  no  posi- 
tion to  dispute  USSTAF’s  authority,  much  as  it  may  have  been  in- 
clined to  do  so.  Spaatz  and  Brig.  Gen.  Hugh  J.  Knerr,  USSTAF’s 
deputy  for  administration,  strongly  opposed  all  moves  on  the  part  of 
the  Ninth  toward  self-containment  and  insisted  on  retaining  unified 
administrative  and  logistical  control  of  all  American  air  forces  in  the 
theater,  even  after  the  move  to  the  continent,  in  order  to  avoid  pos- 


109 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

sibly  harmful  competition  between  the  Eighth  and  Ninth  for  supplies. 
Although  as  late  as  May  and  June  1944  some  plans  officers  at  AAF 
Headquarters  in  Washington  were  still  recommending  that  the  Ninth 
Air  Force  be  logistically  independent  of  the  United  Kingdom  base 
when  it  moved  to  France,  Arnold  agreed  with  Spaatz  and  Knerr  in 
July.  The  Ninth  Air  Force  was  destined  to  remain  under  the  full 
administrative  and  logistical  control  of  USSTAF.11 

There  was  also  a major  organizational  issue,  at  least  from  Brereton’s 
point  of  view,  in  relations  between  the  Ninth  Air  Force  and  the 
AEAF.  Leigh-Mallory  wished  to  establish  an  Allied  tactical  air  force 
headquarters,  under  command  of  Air  Marshal  Sir  Arthur  Coningham, 
for  the  operational  control  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force  and  RAF’s  Second 
Tactical  Air  Force,  an  arrangement  that  would  leave  Leigh-Mallory 
free  to  coordinate  the  efforts  of  the  strategic  and  tactical  air  forces 
at  the  highest  air  level  in  the  theater.  Brereton  vigorously  resisted  this 
proposal  to  interpose  another  headquarters  between  himself  and  the 
Allied  air  commander,  and  not  until  April  1944  was  the  issue  settled. 
At  that  time  it  was  agreed  that  Coningham  should  direct  the  opera- 
tions of  both  tactical  air  forces  through  an  advanced  headquarters  of 
the  AEAF  during  the  assault  phase  of  OVERLORD.  Thereafter, 
Brereton  and  Coningham  would  be  directly  responsible  to  AEAF 
headquarters  for  the  operations  of  their  respective  air  forces.12 

While  the  Ninth  Air  Force  was  seeking  to  find  its  place  within  the 
organizational  framework  of  the  theater,  it  worked  swiftly  to  develop 
its  internal  organization  in  response  to  the  constant  pressure  of  time. 
The  headquarters  at  Sunninghill  was  organized  along  traditional  staff 
lines  with  most  of  the  key  positions  occupied  by  officers  who  had 
come  from  Egypt  or  from  the  headquarters  staff  of  the  VIII  Air  Sup- 
port Command,  which  had  been  long  resident  at  Sunninghill.13  The 
merger  of  the  two  staffs  not  only  combined  the  operational  experi- 
ence of  the  two  organizations  but  preserved  the  continuity  of  control 
over  the  various  subordinate  echelons  which  had  been  transferred  from 
the  Eighth  Air  Force. 

On  arrival  in  England  IX  Bomber  Command  headquarters  joined 
and  absorbed  the  headquarters  of  the  3d  Bombardment  Wing*  at 
Marks  Hall,  Essex.  Col.  Samuel  E.  Anderson,  whose  command  of  the 
3d  Wing  since  July  1943  had  afforded  him  much  experience  as  a 
medium  bomber  commander,  was  appointed  commander  of  the  IX 

» See  Vol.  II,  634. 


I 10 


ORGANIZATION  OF  THE  NINTH  AIR  FORCE 

6 JUNE  1944 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


Bomber  Command,  a position  he  retained  until  the  end  of  the  war. 
The  3d  Wing  brought  with  it  to  the  Ninth  four  medium  bombard- 
ment groups— the  322d,  323d,  386th,  and  387th— which  became  the 
nucleus  of  the  bomber  command.14  Until  February,  these  four  groups, 
divided  between  the  98th  and  99th  Combat  Bombardment  Wings, 
constituted  the  total  operational  strength  of  the  bomber  command. 
In  a two-month  period  beginning  in  February,  four  more  medium 
(B-26)  and  three  light  (A-20)  bombardment  groups  arrived  from  the 
United  States.  The  eight  medium  groups  were  divided  between  the 
98th  and  99th  Wings  and  the  three  light  bombardment  groups  were 
placed  under  the  97th  Combat  Bombardment  Wing.  Before  D-day  the 
bomber  command  had  reached  its  full  strength  of  eleven  groups*  and 
more  than  2 1,000  men.15 

The  development  of  the  IX  Fighter  Command  was  much  more 
complicated  than  that  of  the  bomber  command.  Like  the  IX  Bomber 
Command,  the  nucleus  of  the  fighter  command’s  headquarters  staff 
came  from  Egypt  and  was  augmented  by  personnel  from  the  Eighth 
Air  Force,  in  this  instance,  the  headquarters  and  headquarters  squad- 
ron of  the  1 st  Fighter  Division  (Prov.)  of  the  VIII  Air  Support  Com- 
mand. Brig.  Gen.  Elwood  R.  Quesada,  who  had  acquired  an  outstand- 
ing reputation  as  a fighter  commander  with  the  old  Ninth  Air  Force, 
came  from  Africa  to  take  command  of  the  IX  Fighter  Command.  By 
the  end  of  November  he  had  assembled  his  staff  and  established  a 
headquarters  at  Middle  Wallop,  in  Hampshire.16 

The  Ninth  Air  Force  intended  from  the  beginning  that  the  IX 
Fighter  Command  should  be  primarily  a training  headquarters,  pre- 
paring fighter  groups  for  combat  and  aiding  in  the  development  of  air 
support  commands,  of  which  there  was  to  be  one  for  each  of  the  two 
U.S.  armies  participating  in  OVERLORD.  It  had  been  planned  that 
after  the  establishment  of  the  air  support  commands  the  fighter  com- 
mand would  cease  to  be  active,  that  its  personnel  would  be  divided 
between  the  new  air  support  headquarters,  arid  that  IX  Air  Support 
Command,  under  Quesada,  would  foster  the  fledgling  XIX  Air  Sup- 
port Command,  of  which  Brig.  Gen.  Otto  P.  Weyland  assumed  com- 
mand three  days  after  its  activation  on  1 February  1944.  In  the  end, 
however,  it  was  decided  to  retain  the  fighter  command  as  an  organiza- 
tion under  Quesada’s  command.  In  February  the  AEAF  established  at 

* The  additional  groups  were  the  344th,  391st,  394th,  and  397th  (B-26)  and  the  409th, 
410th,  and  416th  (A-20). 

I I 2 


THE  NINTH  AIR  FORCE 


Uxbridge,  west  of  London,  a combined  fighter  control  center  which 
was  to  control  all  fighter  operations  against  the  continent.  The  Second 
Tactical  Air  Force  was  represented  by  the  officer  commanding  No.  1 1 
Group,  an  air  vice  marshal,  and  the  Ninth  decided  to  retain  the  fighter 
command  with  Quesada  as  commander  “simply,”  as  General  Strahm 
put  it,  “for  the  purpose  of  preserving  that  level  to  give  General 
Brereton’s  representative  parity  with  the  Composite  Group  level  at 
Uxbridge.”17  Quesada  selected  an  operational  staff  from  both  the  IX 
and  XIX  Air  Support  Commands  (redesignated  in  April  as  the  IX  and 
XIX  Tactical  Air  Commands)  to  man  the  control  center.18  Through 
IX  Fighter  Command,  Quesada  was  able  to  retain  control  of  the  oper- 
ations and  training  of  all  of  the  Ninth's  fighter  groups  down  to  D-day. 

The  build-up  of  the  fighter  command  and  its  subordinate  tactical 
air  commands  was  complicated  by  competition  between  the  Eighth 
and  Ninth  Air  Forces  for  the  fighter  groups  arriving  from  the  United 
States.  In  the  fall  of  1943  it  was  expected  that  eventually  there  would 
be  thirty-six  fighter  groups  in  the  two  air  forces,  of  which  the  Eighth 
would  get  fifteen  and  the  Ninth  twenty-one.  All  three  major  fighter 
types— P-38,  P-47,  and  P-51— were  available  in  the  theater,  but  it  was 
decided  that  the  Ninth  would  get  the  P-5i’s.  The  outstanding  per- 
formance of  the  P-5 1 as  a long-range  escort  fighter,*  however,  led  to  a 
change  in  allocations.  By  the  end  of  January,  when  it  seemed  likely 
that  there  would  be  only  thirty-three  instead  of  thirty-six  groups  in 
the  theater,  USSTAF  had  decided  to  allocate  the  fighters  as  follows:19 


Eighth  Air  Force 
Seven  P-5 1 groups 
Four  P-38  groups 
Four  P-47  groups 


Ninth  Air  Force 
Thirteen  P-47  groups 
Three  P-38  groups 
Two  P-51  groups 


A steady  flow  of  fighter  groups  began  arriving  in  February,  and  by 
May  all  eighteen  Ninth  Air  Force  groups  were  assigned  to  five  fighter 
wings:  the  70th,  71st,  84th,  100th,  and  303d.  During  the  pre-assault 
period  the  revivified  fighter  command  also  controlled  miscellaneous 
photo  reconnaissance,  tactical  reconnaissance,  night  fighter,  and  liai- 
son units.  All  told,  the  command  included  approximately  36,000  men 
and  1,500  aircraft.20 

Of  the  operational  commands,  the  IX  Troop  Carrier  Command  was 
the  slowest  in  reaching  its  ultimate  strength  because  most  of  its  groups 
did  not  arrive  in  the  theater  until  March  1944.  When  Brig.  Gen.  Ben- 


* See  above,  pp.  11-12. 


1 1 3 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


jamin  F.  Giles,  who  had  been  engaged  in  troop  carrier  operations  in  the 
Mediterranean  during  1943,  assumed  command  on  16  October  1943, 
he  had  on  hand  the  nucleus  of  a headquarters  staff  from  the  provisional 
troop  carrier  command  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force,  which  had  been  in 
existence  since  September  and  was  now  disbanded.  Giles’s  new  com- 
mand consisted  of  the  50th  Troop  Carrier  Wing,  including  the  3 1 5th 
and  434th  Groups.21  In  February  the  53d  Troop  Carrier  Wing  arrived 
in  the  theater  from  the  United  States,  and  in  March,  the  52d  Wing 
came  from  Sicily  with  its  four  groups.  The  arrival  of  other  groups 
from  the  United  States  brought  the  total  strength  of  the  command  to 
three  wings  comprising  fourteen  groups.*  A reshuffling  of  the  com- 
mand during  the  spring  assigned  five  groups  each  to  the  52d  and  53d 
Wings  and  four  groups  to  the  50th.  On  25  February,  Brig.  Gen.  Paul 
L.  Williams,  who  had  commanded  the  XII  Troop  Carrier  Command 
in  the  Mediterranean,  succeeded  General  Giles  as  commander,  and 
augmented  the  headquarters  staff  with  a number  of  experienced  offi- 
cers he  brought  with  him  from  the  Mediterranean  area.  At  the  begin- 
ning of  June,  the  troop  carrier  command  numbered  almost  30,000 
men.22 

Unique  among  the  commands  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force  was  the  IX 
Air  Defense  Command,  which  came  into  existence  as  the  result  of  the 
Ninth’s  desire  for  an  organization  which  would  leave  the  tactical  air 
commands  free  of  any  rear-area  defense  responsibilities  on  the  conti- 
nent. During  almost  the  entire  existence  of  the  defense  command,  it  had 
assigned  to  it  only  a headquarters  and  a few  miscellaneous  units,  chief- 
ly signal  air  warning  battalions,  and  its  actual  assigned  strength  ranged 
from  fewer  than  1,400  to  a little  more  than  5,200  men.  Nevertheless, 
it  directed,  at  times,  the  operations  of  more  than  30,000  men,  most  of 
them  antiaircraft  artillery  units  attached  to  the  command.  These 
ground  force  units,  much  to  the  disappointment  of  General  Arnold 
and  the  Ninth  Air  Force,  remained  assigned  to  the  ground  forces  until 
almost  the  very  end  of  the  war  in  Europe.23  The  major  elements  of 
the  air  defense  command  were  the  antiaircraft  units— signal  air  warn- 
ing battalions— and  night  fighter  squadrons.  The  basic  antiaircraft 
units,  the  battalions,  were  organized  into  groups  of  three  each,  and 
these,  in  turn,  into  brigades.  The  organization  of  the  air  force  elements 
of  the  command  was  never  stable  for  very  long,  as  conditions  changed 
and  units  were  transferred  in  and  out  of  the  command.24 

* The  twelve  additional  groups  were  the  6ist,  313th,  314th,  316th,  435th,  436th,  437th, 
438th,  439th,  440th,  441st,  and  442d. 

I 14 


THE  NINTH  AIR  FORCE 


111  accordance  with  earlier  plans,  the  Ninth  Air  Force  had  set  up 
at  Sunninghill,  under  Brig.  Gen.  Dale  D.  Hinman,  a staff  to  plan  the 
organization  of  an  air  defense  command.  In  December  1943,  Brig. 
Gen.  William  L.  Richardson,  an  experienced  antiaircraft  officer,  suc- 
ceeded General  Hinman.  After  many  appeals  to  the  War  Department 
and  much  shuffling  of  administrative  papers,  the  IX  Air  Defense  Com- 
mand was  legitimatized  by  the  War  Department  in  March  1944  and 
activated  by  the  Ninth  Air  Force  on  the  30th  of  that  month,25  but  not 
until  after  the  landings  on  the  continent  did  the  IX  Air  Defense  Com- 
mand come  into  its  own  as  a combat  agency  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force. 

The  IX  Air  Force  Service  Command*  was  more  clearly  patterned 
after  its  Eighth  Air  Force  opposite  number  than  any  of  the  other 
Ninth  Air  Force  commands.  A number  of  officers  and  enlisted  men 
had  been  brought  to  England  from  Egypt,  but  most  of  the  key  mem- 
bers of  the  headquarters  came  from  the  Eighth  Air  Force.  General 
Miller ,+  for  most  of  the  past  year  the  commander  of  the  VIII  AFSC, 
took  over  the  IX  AFSC  in  October  1943  and  brought  with  him  mem- 
bers of  his  former  staff.  From  the  Tactical  Air  Depot  Area*  came 
additional  officers  and  men  to  round  out  a headquarters  staff  rich  in 
experience.  In  mid-November,  the  service  command  headquarters 
moved  into  newly  constructed  quarters  across  from  the  Ascot  race 
course,  adjacent  to  the  Ninth  Air  Force  headquarters  at  Sunninghill 
Park.29 

The  projected  size  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force  and  the  scope  of  its 
operations  clearly  required  a large  and  mobile  service  command.  The 
service  command,  in  turn,  recognized  early  that  its  own  size  and  wide- 
flung  operations  made  decentralization  of  its  organization  desirable. 
Accordingly,  borrowing  from  the  experience  of  VIII  AFSC, 5 in  Oc- 
tober it  set  up  a base  air  depot  area  (BADA)  and  an  advanced  air 
depot  area  (AADA)  which  were  areas  in  terms  of  function  rather 
than  geography.  The  base  air  depot  area  was  intended  primarily  for 
supply  and  aircraft  assembly  functions.  In  December  the  IX  AFSC 
divided  the  advanced  air  depot  area  into  a 1st  and  2d  AADA.  This 
further  decentralization  of  the  command  was  purportedly  in  prepara- 

* Originally  known  as  the  IX  Air  Service  Command,  the  name  was  changed  to  IX 
Air  Force  Service  Command  by  an  unnumbered  Ninth  Air  Force  Memorandum  of  29 
Jan.  1944.  The  latter  form  is  used  throughout  this  chapter  for  convenience. 

t On  j May,  Brig.  Gen.  Myron  R.  Wood  succeeded  General  Miller  as  commander 
of  the  IX  AFSC. 

t See  Vol.  II,  644-45. 

§ Ibid.,  Chaps.  18  and  19. 

”5 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


tion  for  the  move  to  the  continent,  where  mobile  warfare  would  re- 
quire decentralized  operations.  In  addition,  the  two  headquarters 
could  be,  and  were,  of  value  in  organizing  and  training  the  many 
service  units  formed  in  the  United  Kingdom  by  the  IX  AFSC.27  Gen- 
eral Miller  and  his  staff  succeeded  in  having  the  service  groups,  as  well 
as  the  air  depot  groups  assigned  to  the  service  command.  All  of  these 
groups,  in  turn,  were  assigned  to  the  advanced  air  depot  areas,  which 
contained  the  bulk  of  the  service  command  strength  and  performed 
the  major  part  of  its  functions.  In  all,  the  IX  AFSC  had  twelve  air 
depot  groups  by  the  spring  of  1944.  From  the  VIII  AFSC  came  five 
experienced  and  three  inexperienced  air  depot  groups,  and  the  IX 
AFSC  organized  four  new  ones  by  splitting  old  ones  in  two  and  add- 
ing personnel.28 

The  success  of  the  strategic  air  depots  in  the  Eighth  Air  Force 
pointed  the  way  for  the  organization  of  the  tactical  air  depots  in  the 
Ninth.  The  air  depot  groups  were  paired,  usually  an  experienced  and 
an  inexperienced  group,  and  six  tactical  air  depots  were  established. 
The  two  depot  groups,  although  sharing  the  same  stations,  remained 
independent  insofar  as  their  actual  operations  were  concerned  and 
no  attempt  was  made  to  set  up  a depot  headquarters.  This  type  of 
organization  was  desirable  because  it  permitted  maximum  utilization 
of  existing  sites  and  of  the  specialized  types  of  units  which  were  usu- 
ally attached  to  air  depot  groups— signal  companies,  military  police 
companies,  station  complements,  etc.  Furthermore,  the  device  of  two 
air  depot  groups  working  together  would  produce  a continuity  of 
service  when  the  time  came  to  move  to  the  continent,  for  one  group 
could  go  ahead  and  while  it  was  in  transit  and  establishing  itself,  the 
other  could  carry  on  with  the  work  in  England.  The  tactical  air 
depots  theoretically  specialized  in  different  types  of  aircraft,  but  in 
practice  there  was  much  overlapping.  The  six  depots  were  divided 
equally  between  the  1st  and  2d  AADA’s.29 

The  service  groups,  which  were  assigned  to  and  administered  by, 
the  advanced  air  depot  areas,  were  under  the  technical  control  of  the 
tactical  air  depots,  each  of  which  supported  anywhere  from  four  to 
fourteen  service  teams.  Like  the  Eighth,  once  again,  the  IX  AFSC 
found  it  expedient,  beginning  in  December  1943,  to  split  the  service 
group  into  two  equal  parts  (designated  teams  A and  B),#  each  of 

* Each  team  usually  consisted  of  one  service  squadron;  one  ordnance  supply  and 
maintenance  company;  one-half  of  a supply  and  maintenance  signal  company;  one- 

I 16 


THE  NINTH  AIR  FORCE 


which  was  stationed  with  a combat  group.  Unlike  the  Eighth,  which 
was  forming  subdepots  out  of  its  service  groups,  the  IX  AFSC  re- 
tained the  service  group  headquarters,  which  usually  resided  with 
Team  A and  administered  both  teams.30  Once  again,  this  was  done 
with  an  eye  to  future  operations  on  the  continent,  where  it  might  be 
necessary  to  operate  the  service  group  as  an  entity  rather  than  as  two 
teams. 

The  structure  of  the  service  command  was  completed  by  the  organ- 
ization of  several  miscellaneous  agencies.  The  13  th  and  20th  Replace- 
ment Control  Depots  permitted  the  command  to  handle  the  receipt, 
processing,  and  distribution  of  personnel,  with  the  exception  of  com- 
bat crews,  for  the  whole  air  force.  Two  truck  regiments,  one  of  which 
was  a provisional  organization,  and  an  air  transport  group,  also  re- 
sponsible directly  to  service  command  headquarters,  formed  an  inte- 
gral and  indispensable  part  of  a command  which  would  depend  heav- 
ily upon  mobility  for  the  performance  of  its  function.31 

Testifying  to  the  ubiquitous  role  played  by  the  IX  AFSC  in  support 
of  Ninth  Air  Force  operations  was  its  No.  1 rank  in  size  among  the 
Ninth’s  commands  from  the  very  beginning.  Unlike  the  combat  com- 
mands, which  received  from  the  Zone  of  Interior  groups  already 
organized  and  trained,  the  service  command  had  to  organize  and  train 
in  the  theater  a large  number  of  its  units— particularly  air  depot  and 
service  groups.  During  the  “Gold  Rush”  period  of  late  1943  and  early 
1944,*  the  service  command  received  thousands  of  casual  officers  and 
men  who  had  to  be  trained  and  organized  into  units  in  a short  period 
of  time.  By  D-day  the  command  had  reached  its  maximum  strength  of 
approximately  60,000  officers  and  men,  ten  times  its  strength  of  16 
October  1943  and  more  than  a third  of  the  total  strength  of  the  air 
force.32 

Early  tactical  air  force  planning  during  1943  had  made  no  provision 
for  an  engineer  command,  but  the  Ninth  Air  Force  recognized  the 
need  for  one  from  the  beginning.  The  example  of  the  North  African 
campaign,  where  the  aviation  engineers  had  functioned  as  an  integral 
part  of  the  air  force,  was  still  fresh  in  the  minds  of  Brereton  and  his 


half  of  a QM  company,  service  group;  one-half  of  a QM  truck  company,  aviation; 
four  units  of  the  mobile  reclamation  and  repair  squadron;  one-half  of  the  chemical 
section  of  the  service  group  headquarters;  and  a detachment  of  the  medical  section  of 
service  group  headquarters.  Each  team  contained  about  joo  men. 

* See  Vol.  II,  640-41. 


117 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


commanders.  Accordingly,  Brereton  urged  that  the  AAF  secure  from 
the  War  Department  permission  for  the  Ninth  to  activate  an  engineer 
command.  In  November  he  directed  the  engineer  section  of  his  head- 
quarters to  assume  the  functions  of  a command.  After  a long  period 
of  negotiations  with  AAF  Headquarters  and  the  War  Department, 
during  which  a provisional  engineer  headquarters  directed  the  train- 
ing of  engineer  battalions,  the  Ninth  received  permission  to  activate 
the  IX  Engineer  Command  on  30  March  1944.  Early  organization, 
planning,  and  training  were  carried  out  under  the  direction  of  Col. 
Karl  B.  Schilling;  on  25  January,  Brig.  Gen.  James  B.  Newman  as- 
sumed command  of  the  provisional  organization.33 

The  engineer  aviation  battalions  and  regiments  in  the  theater  had 
been  under  the  control  of  the  Services  of  Supply  since  1942  and  had 
been  performing  construction  work  on  all  types  of  military  installa- 
tions. It  was  vital  that  they  be  trained  thoroughly  in  the  type  of  con- 
struction work  they  would  be  doing  on  the  continent,  and  to  this  end 
arrangements  were  made  to  transfer  the  units  to  the  IX  Engineer 
Command,  beginning  1 December  1943.  Even  more  than  the  other 
commands  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force,  the  engineer  command  would  have 
to  be  mobile  and  flexible  in  order  to  carry  out  its  task  of  building  and 
repairing  airfields  in  the  wake  of  the  Allied  armies  on  the  continent. 
Accordingly,  sixteen  battalions  were  grouped  under  four  regimental 
headquarters  and  the  command  headquarters  itself  retained  control  of 
the  three  airborne  battalions  and  the  camouflage  battalion.34 

Although  it  possessed  its  own  engineer  command  by  the  spring  of 
1944,  the  Ninth  Air  Force,  like  the  Eighth  Air  Force  before  it,  was 
largely  dependent  in  the  United  Kingdom  on  the  building  program 
undertaken  by  the  British  Air  Ministry  on  behalf  of  the  American  air 
forces.  The  race  between  the  construction  of  airdromes  and  the  arrival 
of  combat  groups  in  the  theater  continued  until  the  Ninth  received  its 
last  group  in  April  1944,  but  at  least  minimum  facilities  were  always 
available  when  needed.35 

The  problems  faced  by  the  Ninth  in  accommodating  its  units  were 
similar  to  those  which  had  faced  the  Eighth  during  its  first  twelve  to 
eighteen  months  in  the  United  Kingdom.  The  almost  daily  multiplica- 
tion of  headquarters  within  the  various  commands  during  the  fall  and 
winter  created  a demand  for  headquarters  sites  which  had  not  been 
foreseen  in  original  building  plans.  Additional  facilities  were  found, 
but  often  only  at  the  expense  of  extra  construction  work.86  The  lack 

1 18 


THE  NINTH  AIR  FORCE 


of  time  or  means  to  enlarge  bases  which  were  overcrowded  caused  re- 
sort to  tent  camps  which  could  be  erected  easily  and  quickly.  Many 
larger  units,  particularly  service  and  air  depot  groups,  had  to  parcel 
out  their  men  among  many  small  camps  in  order  to  house  them,  and 
the  task  of  reassembling  them  at  one  place  sometimes  took  months. 
Storage  space  for  equipment  and  supplies,  large  quantities  of  which 
had  to  be  housed  under  canvas  or  left  in  the  open,  was  particularly 
inadequate  at  many  depots  and  bases.  Finally,  runways  on  the  fighter 
bases  had  been  built  originally  for  the  light  British  planes,  but  it  was 
the  comparatively  heavy  P-47  which  became  the  Ninth’s  chief  fighter 
aircraft.  During  the  winter  and  early  spring  of  1944  an  extensive 
program  for  strengthening  and  lengthening  runways  was  under- 
taken.37 

The  advanced  landing  grounds,  the  last  combat  installations  to  be 
occupied  by  the  Ninth  in  England,  were  especially  deficient  in  facili- 
ties of  all  kinds.  Since  they  were  only  temporary  airfields,  most  of 
them  had  merely  grass  or  Sommerfeld  track  runways.  These  proved 
to  be  inadequate  for  the  Ninth’s  fighters  and  had  to  be  extended  or  re- 
placed by  a more  durable  surface,  usually  pierced-steel  plank.  Most 
of  the  landing  grounds  were  crowded  to  more  than  twice  their  capac- 
ities, and  the  units  which  occupied  them  lived  under  virtual  field  con- 
ditions, in  tents,  short  of  water,  and  with  difficult  sanitation  prob- 
lems.38 

By  May  1944  the  tactical  disposition  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force  in 
England  was  complete.  In  East  Anglia,  IX  Bomber  Command  head- 
quarters and  its  eleven  bases— all  in  Essex— were  situated  immediately 
to  the  north  and  northeast  of  London.39  Fighter  bases,  divided  be- 
tween IX  Tactical  Air  Command  and  the  newly  formed  XIX  Tactical 
Air  Command,  were  concentrated  in  two  distinct  areas.  The  IX 
TAC’s  eleven  fighter  and  fighter-bomber  groups  and  its  67th  Tactical 
Reconnaissance  Group  were  closely  concentrated  in  the  Hampshire 
area,  extending  south  to  the  coast.  All  of  the  XIX  TAC’s  seven  groups 
were  on  advanced  landing  grounds  in  Kent,  the  corner  of  England 
immediately  to  the  southeast  of  London  and  opposite  the  Pas-de- 
Calais.40  The  troop  carrier  command’s  fourteen  combat  bases  were 
more  scattered  than  those  of  the  other  combat  commands.  Six  bases 
were  clustered  in  the  counties  on  the  western  edge  of  East  Anglia,  in 
the  vicinity  of  the  command  headquarters  at  Grantham  Lodge  in 
Lincolnshire.  Five  other  groups  occupied  fields  in  Berkshire  and  Wilt- 

119 


THE  NINTH  AIR  FORCE 


shire,  southwest  of  Oxford;  and  a third  cluster  of  three  stations  was 
still  farther  to  the  southwest,  close  to  the  coast  of  Devon  and  Somer- 
setshire, in  accordance  with  the  wishes  of  the  IX  Troop  Carrier  Com- 
mand.41 

The  service  command’s  depots  and  other  installations  were  central- 
ly situated  with  reference  to  the  stations  of  the  tactical  commands. 
Four  of  the  tactical  air  depots  were  in  Berkshire  and  Hampshire,  west 
and  southwest  of  London,  while  the  other  two  were  in  Essex  and  Lin- 
colnshire, close  to  large  clusters  of  combat  stations.  The  other  service 
command  installations— minor  depots,  truck  transport  stations,  re- 
placement depots,  etc.— were  scattered  throughout  the  area  stretching 
to  the  coasts  south  and  west  of  London.42 

Early  Operations 

Prior  to  April  1944,  Ninth  Air  Force  operations  were  dictated 
largely  by  requirements  of  POINTBLANK  and  CROSSBOW.  Di- 
rectives from  the  Combined  Chiefs  of  Staff  accorded  first  claim  on 
all  the  theater’s  air  resources  to  the  Eighth  Air  Force’s  climactic  cam- 
paign against  the  GAF.  While  the  Ninth’s  medium  bombers  struck 
at  enemy  airfields  and  other  installations  along  the  coast  of  the  conti- 
nent in  coordination  with  the  deeper  penetrations  of  enemy  territory 
by  the  heavy  bombers,  Ninth  Air  Force  fighters  flew  escort  for  the 
bomber  formations  of  the  Eighth.  The  emergence  of  the  V-weapon 
menace  late  in  1943  introduced  a new  set  of  high-priority  targets 
whose  claims  for  a time  also  took  precedence  over  operations  directly 
related  to  the  impending  invasion  of  Normandy. 

The  early  combat  history  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force  in  ETO  is  largely 
the  story  of  its  bomber  command,  which  in  October  1943  took  over 
the  four  B-26  groups  that  had  been  operating  under  the  VIII  Air 
Support  Command.  These  groups,  after  an  ill-fated  low-level  attack 
on  Ijmuiden  in  the  preceding  May,*  had  resumed  operations  on  16 
July.  The  improved  showing  of  the  B-2  6’s,  now  flying  at  12,000  to 
15,000  feet  rather  than  at  the  low  levels  employed  in  May,  helped 
allay  many  of  the  fears  concerning  the  Marauders  which  had  been 
current  after  the  Ijmuiden  operation.43  VIII  ASC  reached  the  peak 
of  its  activities  in  the  Anglo-American  STARKEY  operations  of  late 
August  and  early  Septembert  and  on  9 October  directed  its  last 

* See  Vol.  II,  339-41. 

t Ibid.,  688-89.  Between  25  August  and  9 September  VIII  ASC  dispatched  more 
than  1,700  aircraft  of  which  number  1,300  actually  attacked  continental  targets  with 
a total  loss  of  9 planes. 


I 2 I 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


mission— a strike  against  the  Woensdrecht  airfield  in  Holland.44  When 
next  the  B-26’s  operated,  in  a minor  strike  on  22  October  against  the 
£vreux/Fauville  airdrome,  it  was  under  the  aegis  of  IX  Bomber  Com- 
mand.45 

That  command  found  itself  bound  by  the  same  directives  which 
had  previously  governed  the  operations  of  the  medium  bombers,  and 
their  pattern  of  operations  remained  substantially  unchanged,  except 
for  the  addition  of  CROSSBOW  targets  beginning  in  November. 
Even  when  the  Ninth  passed  to  the  operational  control  of  the  AEAF 
on  15  December,  the  basic  objective  of  the  mediums  remained  the 
same— to  reduce  the  enemy  fighter  force  in  northwest  Europe  by  at- 
tacking enemy  airfields  and  industrial  installations.  Operations  in  sup- 
port of  VIII  Bomber  Command  thus  remained  the  first  priority  and 
CROSSBOW  operations  were  placed  second.46 

Against  enemy  airdromes  in  France  and  the  Low  Countries  the 
B-2  6’s  achieved  indifferent  results,  at  best  merely  denying  the  GAF 
use  of  those  fields  for  short  periods  of  time.  It  had  been  hoped  that 
the  medium  attacks  would  serve  to  draw  enemy  fighters  away  from 
the  heavy  bombers,  and  the  heavy  and  medium  missions  were  accord- 
ingly coordinated  for  that  purpose.  But  the  Germans  elected  to  with- 
draw their  fighters  from  the  advanced  fields  for  concentrations  against 
the  heavies,  and  seldom  were  any  enemy  aircraft  found  on  the  fields 
under  attack.  “Never,”  wrote  Brereton  in  November  1943,  “so  far  as 
is  known,  have  enemy  fighters  been  drawn  from  adjacent  areas  to 
attack  the  mediums  when  a large  force  of  heavies  was  on  the  screen.”47 
Even  when  Leigh-Mallory  acted  on  Brereton’s  suggestion  that  the 
efficient  escort  for  medium  bombers  provided  by  1 1 Group  of  the 
RAF  be  reduced  as  an  invitation  to  the  enemy  to  engage  the  B-2  6’s,48 
German  fighter  reaction  showed  no  great  increase  and  medium 
bomber  losses  remained  low.  Some  of  the  attacks  on  airdromes  pro- 
duced good  results  in  terms  of  damage  to  installations  and  facilities, 
as  in  the  attack  of  3 November  by  seventy-two  Marauders  on  the  air- 
drome at  St.-Andre-de-PEure.  On  1 December  successful  attacks  were 
made  on  airfields  at  Cambrai/Niergnies  and  Lille/Vendeville  in  north- 
ern France,  and  on  1 3 December,  in  the  largest  mission  yet  undertaken 
by  IX  Bomber  Command,  199  planes  dropped  almost  400  tons  of 
bombs  on  the  Amsterdam-Schiphol  airdrome,  inflicting  severe  damage. 
But  the  attrition  forced  upon  the  enemy  remained  small,  and  in  Janu- 
ary 1944  only  one  attack  was  directed  against  an  airdrome  target— at 
Cherbourg/Maupertuis  on  the  7th.49 


1 2 2 


THE  NINTH  AIR  FORCE 


The  growing  concern  in  December  over  the  V-weapon  threat  caused 
Leigh-Mallory  to  direct  the  mediums  increasingly  against  V-weapon 
sites.  This  change  found  justification  in  the  feeling  on  the  part  of 
tactical  air  commanders  that  the  attacks  against  enemy  airfields  had 
proved  ineffectual,50  but  the  strategic  air  commanders  disagreed.  “It 
is  absolutely  essential,”  Spaatz  wrote  Arnold  on  i February  1944, 
“that  mediums  attack  airdromes  properly  timed  with  our  attacks  to 
secure  not  only  the  maximum  protection  to  our  own  formations,  but 
the  maximum  destruction  of  the  German  Air  Force.”51  As  the  result 
of  visits  and  letters  from  Spaatz  and  Fred  Anderson,  the  Air  Ministry 
early  in  February  asked  Leigh-Mallory  to  make  it  clear  to  all  con- 
cerned that  CROSSBOW’s  claim  to  the  services  of  the  medium  bomb- 
ers ranked  second  to  that  of  POINTBLANK.  Nevertheless,  Spaatz 
continued  to  find  during  February  reason  to  complain  of  AEAF’s  re- 
fusal to  send  the  mediums  against  airfields  as  requested  by  USSTAF.52 
The  failure  to  achieve  cooperation  between  USSTAF  and  AEAF, 
coupled  with  other  differences  over  the  training  of  Ninth  Air  Force 
units  and  over  control  of  the  strategic  air  forces  themselves,  created 
an  atmosphere  of  distrust  and  suspicion  between  the  two  headquarters, 
which  was  the  exception  rather  than  the  rule  in  Anglo-American  re- 
lations in  the  European  theater.  The  fact  that  medium  attacks  on 
NOBALL  targets  (German  launching  sites)  were  usually  coordinated 
with  heavy  bomber  missions  so  as  to  provide  some  diversion  had  little 
effect  in  easing  the  tension. 

Whatever  the  justification  for  Eighth  Air  Force  complaints  regard- 
ing the  use  of  the  Ninth’s  medium  bombers,  there  existed  no  cause  for 
dissatisfaction  over  the  employment  of  Ninth  Air  Force  fighters. 
Through  January  the  354th  Fighter  Group,  which  had  reached  the 
theater  with  its  P-5i’s  in  November  and  was  assigned  to  IX  Fighter 
Command,  operated  under  the  control  of  VIII  Fighter  Command. 
The  first  operation  by  Ninth  Air  Force  fighters  came  on  1 Decem- 
ber, when  twenty-eight  P-5i’s  executed  a sweep  over  northwestern 
France.  On  5 December  the  Mustangs  flew  their  first  escort  mission, 
a comparatively  short  one  to  the  Amiens  area,  and  on  13  December 
the  P-5  i’s,  in  company  with  the  Eighth’s  55th  Fighter  Group  (P-38’s), 
escorted  the  B-iy’s  490  miles  by  a dogleg  course  across  the  North  Sea 
to  Kiel  and  back.  This  was  the  longest  fighter  escort  mission  yet 
flown  and  presaged  the  loss  by  the  GAF  of  control  of  the  air  over 
Germany  during  American  heavy  bomber  attacks.53  In  January  the 
Mustangs  flew  325  effective  sorties,  36  less  than  in  December— a de- 


123 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


cline  attributable  in  part  to  a firing  defect  in  the  P-5i’s  guns  which 
caused  many  abortive  sorties.64  But  corrective  action  had  been  initi- 
ated by  the  end  of  the  month,  and  with  the  addition  of  jettisonable 
tanks  the  P-51  became  the  outstanding  long-range  escort  fighter— so 
much  so,  in  fact,  that  most  of  the  newly  arriving  P-5 1 groups  there- 
after went  to  the  Eighth  Air  Force. 

With  only  five  operational  groups— four  medium  bombardment 
groups  and  one  fighter  group— Ninth  Air  Force  operations  continued 
on  a relatively  small  scale  through  January,  but  in  February  1944  its 
operations  were  marked  by  a sharp  upward  swing.  In  a period  of  little 
more  than  three  months  after  the  opening  of  February,  virtually  all 
of  the  Ninth’s  bomber  and  fighter  groups  became  operational.  The  IX 
Bomber  Command  added  four  more  medium  and  three  light  (A-20) 
bombardment  groups,  and  the  354th  Fighter  Group  was  joined  by 
seventeen  additional  fighter  groups.*55  Contributing  further  to  the  in- 
crease in  the  bomber  command’s  operational  rate  was  the  development 
of  a pathfinder  squadron  employing  blind-bombing  equipment  and 
techniques  developed  by  the  RAF  and  the  Eighth  Air  Force.  As  early 
as  2 1 February  pathfinder  planes  led  B-2  6’s  of  the  3 2 2d  Bombardment 
Group  to  their  target— Coxyde  airdrome  in  Holland.56 

The  medium  bombers  expended  the  major  part  of  their  growing 
effort  against  V-weapon  sites  during  February.  On  8 February,  for 
the  first  time,  the  bomber  command  sent  out  two  missions  on  a single 
day,  and  on  9 February  the  first  of  a long  series  of  attacks  on  mar- 
shalling yards  was  carried  out— against  Tergnier  in  northern  France. 
In  coordination  with  the  Big  Week  operations  of  the  Eighth  Air 
Force  against  the  German  aircraft  industry  the  medium  bombers,  on 
24  and  25  February,  attacked  enemy  airfields  in  Holland— Leeu- 
warden,  Gilze-Rijen,  Venlo,  and  St.-Trond— and  NOBALL  sites  in 
France.  During  February  the  B-26’s  flew  2,328  effective  sorties  and 
dropped  more  than  3,300  tons  of  bombs.  They  lost  twenty  aircraft, 
more  than  the  total  for  the  preceding  three  months.57  Through  the 
early  days  of  March  the  NOBALL  sites  continued  to  provide  the 


* The  fighter  groups,  arranged  in  the  order  of  the  date  on  which  they  became 


operational,  were: 

358th  (P-47),  3 Feb. 
362 d (P-47),  8 Feb. 
365th  (P-47),  22  Feb. 
363d  (P-51),  22  Feb. 
366th  (P-47),  14  Mar. 
368th  (P-47),  14 Mar. 


405th  (P-47),  1 1 Apr. 
371st  (P-47),  12  Apr. 
48th  (P-47),  20  Apr. 
474th  (P-38),  25  Apr. 
50th  (P-47),  1 May 
370th  (P-38),  1 May 


404th  (P-47),  1 May 
36th  (P-47),  8 May 
373d  (P-47), 8 May 
406th  (P-47) , 9 May 
367th  (P-38),  9 May 


1 24 


THE  NINTH  AIR  FORCE 


major  targets  for  IX  Bomber  Command,  but  by  the  middle  of  the 
month  that  command  had  turned  its  attention  primarily  to  the  pre- 
invasion phase  of  the  operations  for  which  the  Ninth  Air  Force  had 
originally  been  created.  Henceforth  targets  for  its  bombers  would  be 
selected  chiefly  in  accordance  with  the  program  for  wrecking  the 
enemy’s  transportation  facilities  on  the  continent.* 

Escort  missions  still  claimed  the  major  share  of  the  fighter  effort. 
During  February  the  number  of  effective  sorties  (1,778)  was  more 
than  four  times  the  number  flown  in  January.  The  fighter  groups, 
heretofore  under  the  direct  control  of  the  VIII  Fighter  Command  for 
operations,  were  placed  under  the  70th  Fighter  Wing  of  the  IX  TAC, 
and  the  Ninth  moved  toward  complete  control  of  its  air  units.  On 
3 February  the  70th  Fighter  Wing  controlled  two  of  its  groups  in  the 
air  for  the  first  time,  and  in  March  the  fighter  command  took  over 
operational  planning  control  of  its  fighter  groups.  Ninth  Air  Force 
fighters  played  an  important  role  in  escorting  Eighth  Air  Force  bomb- 
ers to  aircraft  targets  in  Germany  during  the  Big  Week  of  February, 
and  on  4 March  the  fighters  flew  over  Berlin  for  the  first  time.68  In 
addition  to  escorting  the  heavy  bombers  the  fighters  also  accompanied 
the  Ninth’s  medium  and  light  bombers  on  their  missions,  replacing 
in  March  the  RAF  Spitfires  of  1 1 Group,  which  had  heretofore  pro- 
vided most  of  the  escort  for  these  missions.  More  than  4,600  effective 
sorties  were  flown  by  the  fighters  during  March,  all  but  a few  hun- 
dred of  them  in  escort  of  bombers.  With  the  advent  of  April  the 
fighters  definitely  came  into  their  own,  executing  strafing  and  bomb- 
ing missions  greater  in  number  than  those  involving  escort  alone.  On 
9 May,  the  eighteenth  and  last  of  the  Ninth’s  fighter  groups,  the  367  th, 
became  operational.69 

From  being  an  adjunct  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force  the  Ninth  had 
emerged  by  the  end  of  April  as  a full-fledged  tactical  air  force.  Be- 
ginning with  a small  attack  by  seven  planes  of  the  366th  Fighter 
Group  against  St. -Valery  airdrome  on  15  March,  Ninth  Air  Force 
fighters  increasingly  turned  their  attention  to  practicing  the  tech- 
niques of  fighter  bombing  against  continental  targets^  On  26  March 
some  240  fighters  drawn  from  five  groups  attacked  marshalling  yards 
and  CROSSBOW  targets  in  France.  The  fighters  dropped  102  tons 

* See  below,  pp.  149-62. 

t After  20  May  1944  the  Ninth  Air  Force  referred  to  all  fighter  groups  as  fighter- 
bomber  groups.  The  terms  were  eventually  used  interchangeably. 


125 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


of  explosives  in  March  and  more  than  ten  times  that  amount  in  April.80 
Already  the  67th  Tactical  Reconnaissance  Group,  an  experienced  and 
hard-working  organization,,  had  carried  out  the  enormous  task  of 
photographing  1 60  miles  of  French  coast  and  two  inshore  strips  of  1 20 
miles  each  under  exceedingly  hazardous  conditions.61 

Logistical  Planning 

In  preparation  for  the  accomplishment  of  its  primary  mission  in 
support  of  the  continental  invasion,  it  was  necessary  for  the  Ninth 
Air  Force  to  divide  its  attention  among  a variety  of  responsibilities, 
any  one  of  which  imposed  a heavy  burden  upon  its  leaders.  The  ex- 
panding operations  of  the  spring  of  1944  depended  upon  a build-up 
of  forces  that  proceeded  at  a rate  imposing  the  heaviest  possible  ad- 
ministrative and  organizational  responsibility.  These  operations  served 
as  useful  training  for  newly  arriving  units,  but  they  frequently  inter- 
fered with  training  programs  designed  to  meet  the  peculiar  needs  of 
post-invasion  operations.  And  while  adjusting  its  organization  to  an 
unprecedented  rate  of  build-up,  the  Ninth  Air  Force  was  also  re- 
quired to  maintain  a flexible  structure  that  could  be  fitted  readily  to 
the  demands  of  a highly  mobile  type  of  warfare  on  the  continent. 

Especially  difficult  were  the  tasks  of  logistical  organization  and 
planning,  and  from  its  very  inception  in  the  United  Kingdom  IX  Air 
Force  Service  Command  enjoyed  a position  of  eminence  within  the 
Ninth  Air  Force  beyond  that  of  the  average  service  command.  Not 
only  did  air  force  headquarters  divest  itself  of  some  of  its  adminis- 
trative functions,  as  with  the  assignment  to  the  service  command  of 
control  over  all  personnel  replacement  depots,62  but  it  was  recognized 
that  a war  of  movement  on  the  continent  would  require  an  unusually 
large,  strong,  and  flexible  logistical  organization  because  of  the  wide 
dispersion  of  combat  groups  and  the  consequently  long  extension  of 
supply  lines. 

Fortunately  the  IX  AFSC,  as  a result  of  USSTAF’s  assumption  of 
administrative  authority  over  both  U.S.  air  forces  in  ETO,  came 
under  the  control  of  the  theater’s  chief  air  logistical  officer,  for 
General  Knerr  insisted  on  eliminating  all  avoidable  duplication  of 
effort.  Beginning  in  March  1944,  Air  Service  Command,  USSTAF 
progressively  took  over  all  base  service  functions.  The  IX  AFSC  did 
away  with  its  base  air  depot  area  and  on  1 7 May  transferred  its  most 
important  installations  (Baverstock  and  Filton)  to  ASC,  USSTAF, 

126 


THE  NINTH  AIR  FORCE 


which  continued  to  use  them  to  provide  base  services  for  the  Ninth. 
Knerr  actually  went  still  further  and  assumed  responsibility  for  and 
authority  over  service  command  functions  below  the  level  of  ad- 
vanced depots,  “with  such  exceptions  as  experience  may  prove  to  be 
desirable.”63  During  1943  and  early  1944,  the  IX  AFSC  had  sought 
to  organize  a system  which  would  give  it  maximum  control  of  its  own 
supply  procurement.  Against  the  opposition  of  Knerr  this  effort  made 
little  headway,  although,  for  a while,  from  December  1943  until 
March  1 944,  the  Ninth  received  permission  to  deal  directly  with  the 
Air  Service  Command  in  the  United  States  and  the  SOS  in  the  theater 
for  certain  items  of  supply— specifically,  Air  Corps  supplies  for  air- 
craft peculiar  to  the  Ninth  Air  Force  (A-2o’s,  B-26’s,  and  C-47’s)  and 
certain  ordnance,  signal,  and  quartermaster  supplies,  particularly  ra- 
tions. Burtonwood,  having  been  designated  the  supply  control  depot, 
in  March  1944  was  “charged  with  the  responsibility  for  receiving  and 
processing  all  requisitions  for  supplies  to  be  obtained  from  the  United 
States,  the  SOS,  and  the  British,  with  such  exceptions  as  may  be  au- 
thorized by  ASC  Headquarters,  USSTAF  from  time  to  time.”  The 
exceptions  were  rare.64 

The  Ninth’s  supply  system  for  both  Air  Corps  and  common-user 
items  followed  routine  channels:  from  base  depots  through  tactical 
air  depots  and  service  teams  to  the  combat  groups.  Exceptions  were 
made  for  certain  signal  and  quartermaster  items  which  the  tactical 
air  depots  were  permitted  to  secure  directly  from  the  SOS  depots. 
Because  of  the  special  bomb  and  ammunition  requirements  of  the 
Ninth,  it  was  permitted  to  retain  its  own  ordnance  depot  at  Grovely 
Wood,  Wiltshire,  even  after  it  had  given  up  its  other  base  depot  func- 
tions. The  tactical  air  depots  were  authorized  a ninety-day  level  of 
supplies,  which  was  attained  or  exceeded  for  some  items  and  never 
reached  for  others.65 

The  supply  system  was  bound  together  by  a truck  and  air  transport 
service  which  operated  under  the  direction  of  the  Transportation  Di- 
vision of  IX  AFSC  headquarters.  The  truck  companies,  drawn  from 
the  service  and  air  depot  groups  and  organized  into  regiments,  never 
reached  the  number  actually  authorized  for  the  command;  and,  in- 
deed, there  was  delay  and  difficulty  in  equipping  those  on  hand.  The 
3 1 st  Air  Transport  Group  was  a valuable  cog  in  the  distribution  ma- 
chinery of  the  air  force,  flying  cargo  and  personnel  in  support  of  oper- 


127 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

ations,  playing  the  same  role  that  the  27th  Air  Transport  Group  did 
for  the  Eighth  Air  Force.66 

Supply  problems  of  the  Ninth  prior  to  D-day  were  similar  to  those 
which  had  faced  the  Eighth  during  1942-43.  The  unit  equipment 
problem  was  particularly  aggravating  because  of  the  approach  of 
D-day,  which  imposed  a more  rigid  obligation  on  the  Ninth  than  the 
Eighth  had  ever  faced.  The  many  special  types  of  units  which  were 
activated  in  the  theater  complicated  the  problem  because  adequate 
arrangements  had  not  been  made  for  their  supply.  Then,  too,  the 
Eighth  Air  Force  was  organizing  its  subdepots,  which  were  given 
priority  for  equipment  ahead  of  the  Ninth’s  units.  As  late  as  April 
1944  a number  of  IX  AFSC  depot  and  supply  squadrons  possessed 
as  little  as  5 to  15  per  cent  of  their  equipment,  but  the  IX  AFSC  as  a 
whole  was  more  than  80  per  cent  equipped  in  March.  In  April,  IX 
AFSC  officers  were  given  permission  to  visit  the  base  depots  and  the 
Eighth  Air  Force  service  units  in  search  of  any  equipment  that  could 
be  made  available.  The  speeding-up  of  the  supply  flow  from  the 
United  States  during  the  spring  enabled  the  Ninth  Air  Force  to  have 
its  units,  with  few  exceptions,  ready  for  full  action  on  D-day.67 

The  higher  priority  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force  for  fighter  planes  for 
a time  slowed  the  flow  of  aircraft  to  the  Ninth.  As  fighter  aircraft 
flooded  into  the  theater  during  the  late  winter  and  spring  of  1944, 
however,  assembly  and  modification  depots  expanded  their  output  and 
fighter  groups  received  their  full  complements  of  planes.  The  pro- 
digious increase  in  the  rate  of  operations  by  both  the  Eighth  and  the 
Ninth  led  in  May  1944  to  a shortage  of  7 5 -gallon  jettisonable  tanks, 
which  was  remedied  only  by  diverting  to  England  from  the  United 
States  tanks  which  had  been  intended  for  the  China-Burma-India  thea- 
ter. By  D-day  the  Ninth  had  almost  reached  its  full  strength  in  air- 
craft, including  replacements— more  than  4,500  tactical  planes  plus 
almost  2,700  gliders.68 

Other  supply  problems  were  solved  in  similar  fashion  by  the  arrival 
of  huge  quantities  of  supplies  and  equipment  in  the  months  before 
D-day.  Bombs  and  ammunition  had  to  be  carefully  husbanded,  even 
during  the  spring,  because  the  stockpiles  in  the  theater  were  being 
consumed  at  a much  faster  rate  than  planners  in  the  United  States  had 
expected;  as  a result,  the  Ninth’s  bombers  could  not  always  have  the 
type  of  bomb  they  requested  for  use  against  particular  targets.  Com- 
plaints about  the  shortage  of  small  bombs  were  frequent.  Aviation  fuel 

12S 


THE  NINTH  AIR  FORCE 


presented  primarily  a distribution  and  storage  problem,  particularly  at 
the  advanced  landing  grounds,  which  had  been  expanded  far  beyond 
their  original  capacities.89 

The  Ninth’s  maintenance  organization  was  patterned  after  that  of 
the  Eighth  and  leaned  heavily  on  ASC,  USSTAF  for  assistance.  Dur- 
ing its  earlier  months  in  England,  while  it  still  anticipated  that  it  would 
be  logistically  independent  of  ASC,  USSTAF,  the  IX  AFSC  made 
arrangements  to  perform  much  of  its  own  assembly  and  modification 
work.  Assembly  depots  were  constructed  in  open  fields  at  Filton  in 
Gloucestershire  and  at  Greenham  Common  in  Berkshire,  the  latter  for 
gliders.  Assembly  of  aircraft  increased  steadily,  reaching  a peak  of  496 
in  April  and  declining  to  301  during  May,  when  Filton  was  trans- 
ferred to  ASC,  USSTAF.  Glider  assembly  made  slow  progress  until 
April  when  930  gliders  were  assembled,  and  by  the  end  of  May  the 
IX  AFSC  had  assembled  more  than  2,000  gliders  for  the  troop  carrier 
command.  By  this  time  arrangements  had  been  made  for  ASC, 
USSTAF  to  take  over  this  work  also,  but  the  aircraft  and  glider  as- 
sembly program  of  IX  AFSC  made  a definite  and  substantial  contri- 
bution to  equipping  the  combat  groups  of  the  air  force,  for  the  ASC, 
USSTAF  assembly  depots  could  not  have  met  the  needs  of  both  the 
Eighth  and  the  Ninth  at  a time  when  dozens  of  new  groups  had  to  be 
equipped.70 

By  the  end  of  1943,  when  modifications  had  become  a major  func- 
tion of  the  base  air  depots  in  the  theater,  the  IX  AFSC,  in  the  interest 
of  a faster  flow  of  aircraft  to  the  fighting  units,  undertook  to  modify 
planes  at  the  tactical  air  depots.  In  December  1943  the  tactical  air 
depots  were  modifying  B-26’s,  P-47’s,  and  P-5  i’s;  by  March  1944  they 
were  also  modifying  P-38’s,  C-47’s,  and  gliders.  The  chief  fighter 
modification  involved  the  installation  of  jettisonable  tanks.  Service 
teams,  some  of  whose  combat  groups  had  not  yet  arrived  in  the  thea- 
ter or  were  not  yet  in  combat,  were  of  great  assistance  in  performing 
modifications  on  aircraft,  using  modification  kits  which  had  been  sent 
from  the  base  air  depots  via  the  tactical  air  depots.  In  all,  from  Febru- 
ary through  May,  the  tactical  air  depots  and  the  service  teams  modi- 
fied approximately  2,400  aircraft,  more  than  1,500  of  them  in  April 
and  May.  After  the  Ninth  began  to  move  to  France  in  June,  the  modi- 
fication output  of  its  service  command  declined  to  a fraction  of  April 
and  May  production  and  the  base  air  depots  of  ASC,  USSTAF  as- 
sumed the  larger  part  of  the  modification  load.  Thus,  after  D-day,  the 


129 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


theater  air  service  command,  which  was  already  responsible  for  the 
receipt  of  all  aircraft  in  the  theater,  assembled,  modified,  and  delivered 
virtually  all  of  the  Ninth’s  planes.71 

Day-to-day  maintenance  and  repair  services  remained  in  the  hands 
of  the  tactical  air  depots  and  the  service  teams.  The  depots  performed 
fourth-echelon  repair  and  maintenance,  overhauling  engines  and  pro- 
pellers and  doing  major  repairs  on  heavily  damaged  planes;  what  they 
could  not  handle  they  sent  on  to  Burtonwood  and  Warton.  The  two 
advanced  air  depot  areas  specialized  in  handling  the  various  aircraft 
of  the  Ninth:  the  first  area  concentrated  on  bombers  and  miscel- 
laneous aircraft;  the  second  area  handled  the  fighter  aircraft.  Service 
teams,  like  the  Eighth  Air  Force  subdepots,  were  located  on  the  same 
stations  with  the  combat  groups  and  handled  third-echelon  repair  and 
maintenance  for  them.72  Each  service  team  had  four  of  the  nine  self- 
sufficient  and  completely  mobile  units  which  comprised  the  reclama- 
tion and  repair  squadron  assigned  to  the  service  group;  the  ninth  unit 
was  generally  assigned  to  the  service  group  headquarters.*  The  several 
mobile  units  could  be  sent  wherever  needed;  they  performed  on-site 
repairs  and  routine  maintenance  work,  salvaged  aircraft,  and  even  as- 
sisted in  glider  and  aircraft  assembly.  In  the  period  from  February 
through  May  1944  the  service  command  performed  maintenance  and 
repair  work  on  almost  2,400  aircraft.  Most  of  the  work  was  done  by 
service  teams,  for  the  tactical  air  depots  were  largely  occupied  by  the 
time-consuming  modification  of  aircraft.73  By  D-day  the  Ninth  Air 
Force  itself  was  completely  self-sufficient  in  the  performance  of  the 
first  three  echelons  of  maintenance,  but  it  would  remain  partly  de- 
pendent on  the  base  air  depots  of  ASC,  USSTAF  for  fourth-echelon 
maintenance. 

Meanwhile,  a group  of  IX  AFSC  officers  headed  by  Col.  Vernon  M. 
Babcock,  one  of  the  most  experienced  planning  officers  in  the  theater, 
had  worked  out  in  close  collaboration  with  representatives  of  the 
British  Second  Tactical  Air  Force  and  of  U.S.  ground  and  naval  head- 
quarters the  Ninth  Air  Force  Administrative  Plan  for  OVERLORD. 
Issued  on  21  April  1944  and,  after  some  revision,  reissued  on  8 May, 
this  plan  was  based  on  three  major  assumptions:  the  air  force  would 
operate  initially  from  England  and  would  move  to  the  continent  as 
rapidly  as  possible  after  D-day;  the  United  Kingdom  would  be  the 
main  base  for  OVERLORD;  and  the  major  repair  facilities  and  the 

* For  the  composition  of  these  teams,  see  again  p.  n6n. 

I 30 


THE  NINTH  AIR  FORCE 


main  reserves  of  men  and  equipment  would  remain  also  in  the  United 
Kingdom.  The  detailed  plan  itself  was  at  almost  all  points  subject  to 
factors  beyond  the  control  of  the  air  force— the  availability  of  invasion 
shipping,  the  movement  priority  actually  accorded  the  air  force,  and 
the  rate  of  build-up.74 

In  preparation  for  D-day,  the  service  command  would  pre-stock  the 
combat  bases  in  the  United  Kingdom  about  D minus  1 5 and  especially 
would  stock  each  of  the  advanced  landing  grounds  of  IX  and  XIX 
Tactical  Air  Commands  with  90,000  gallons  of  aviation  gasoline,  a 
precaution  against  the  road  congestion  that  would  blanket  all  of  south- 
ern England  in  the  several  weeks  preceding  D-day.  With  the  supply 
of  the  combat  bases  thus  assured,  the  service  command  could  then  use 
its  trucks  to  help  combat  groups,  airdrome  squadrons,  and  service 
teams  move  to  the  ports  of  embarkation.  The  actual  movement  ma- 
chinery would  be  in  the  hands  of  other  agencies,  but  at  key  points 
in  the  transportation  pipeline  the  Ninth  would  provide  liaison  officers 
who  would  help  smooth  the  way  for  air  force  units.  To  replace  an- 
ticipated losses  of  noncombat  personnel  on  the  continent,  the  service 
command  would  establish  a reserve  manpower  pool  of  some  3,000 
men  in  England.75 

The  build-up  of  units  on  the  opposite  shore  was  based  on  the  availa- 
bility of  airfields  to  be  constructed  in  France  by  IX  Engineer  Com- 
mand. A construction  program,  worked  out  by  a planning  staff  under 
Col.  Herbert  W.  Ehrgott,  called  for  two  emergency  landing  strips* 
to  be  prepared  on  D-day,  one  on  each  of  the  two  landing  beaches. 
By  D plus  3 there  were  to  be  two  refueling  and  rearming  strips^  on 
OMAHA  beach,  and  by  D plus  8,  four  advanced  landing  grounds 
on  OMAHA  and  one  on  UTAH.  On  D plus  14  there  were  to  be  five 
advanced  landing  grounds  on  OMAHA  and  three  on  UTAH;  one 
runway  on  each  beach  was  to  be  5,000  feet,  the  others  only  3,600  feet 
because  of  insufficient  shipping  for  construction  materials  during  the 
early  build-up  period.  It  was  estimated  that  if  the  planned  rate  of 
ground  advance  was  attained,  a total  of  thirty-five  advanced  landing 
grounds  would  have  to  be  constructed  during  the  first  forty  days 
in  order  to  accommodate  all  of  the  Ninth’s  fighter  and  reconnaissance 

* Rough,  graded  strips  approximately  2,000  feet  long,  designed  to  provide  a place 
for  belly  landings  of  aircraft. 

t Strips  near  the  front  lines,  each  with  a runway  and  a marshalling  area  on  each  end 
of  the  runway,  designed  for  use  by  aircraft  whose  bases  were  in  England. 

HI 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


groups.  Accordingly,  the  planned  build-up  of  service  forces  was  as 
follows: 

D plus  3— ground  elements  for  the  operation  of  two  refueling  and  rearming 
strips. 

D plus  8— ground  elements  for  the  operation  of  the  roulement  system*  for 
9 fighter  squadrons,  y fighter-bomber  squadrons,  and  1 fighter- 
reconnaissance  squadron. 

D plus  14— ground  elements  for  the  operation  on  the  continent  of  one  fighter- 
reconnaissance,  u fighter-bomber,  and  12  fighter  squadrons. 

D plus  24— ground  elements  for  the  operation  of  37  squadrons. 

D plus  40— ground  elements  for  the  operation  of  58  squadrons. 

All  of  these  squadrons  would  use  fighter-type  planes;  the  bomber  and 
troop  carrier  aircraft  would  not  come  to  the  continent  until  later 
when  larger  and  better  airfields  would  be  available.76  Since  it  was  im- 
perative that  fighter  groups  be  moved  to  the  continent  with  a mini- 
mum of  interference  with  their  operations,  it  was  planned  that  air- 
drome squadrons  would  precede  the  groups  to  the  beaches  and  pre- 
pare the  airfields  for  operations.  After  the  flight  echelons  had  estab- 
lished themselves  in  France,  the  ground  echelons  and  then  the  service 
teams  would  follow.  The  airdrome  squadrons  would  then  move  on 
to  still  more  advanced  airfields  and  the  cycle  would  be  repeated.77 

Specially  trained  beach  squadrons  of  the  VIII  AF  Intransit  Depot 
Groupt  would  initiate  service  command  operations  on  the  beaches  on 
D-day.  Attached  to  ground  force  engineer  special  brigades,  these 
squadrons  would  operate  the  air  force’s  supply  dumps  on  the  beaches, 
receiving,  sorting,  and  distributing  supplies.  Army  beach  brigades 
would  operate  intransit  areas  on  the  beaches  for  the  reception  of  both 
ground  and  air  units  and  would  route  them  to  their  destinations.  Over- 
all direction  of  air  service  command  activities  in  Normandy  was  to  be 
in  the  hands  of  an  advanced  command  headquarters,  made  up  of  per- 
sonnel from  IX  AFSC  headquarters  and  2d  Advanced  Air  Depot  Area 
which,  it  will  be  remembered,  specialized  in  serving  fighter  groups.78 

Initial  Air  Corps  supply  would  be  in  the  form  of  ten-day  pack-up 
kits  provided  by  the  service  command  and  carried  by  the  airdrome 
squadrons.  The  service  teams  that  were  to  follow  later  would  bring 
with  them  a thirty-day  supply  for  the  aircraft  they  were  to  service. 
Prior  to  the  arrival  on  D plus  29  of  the  first  air  depot  group,  bringing 

* Use  of  an  advanced  field  for  a period  of  a few  days  by  squadrons  whose  bases  were 
in  England  or  elsewhere  in  the  rear.  When  the  limits  of  servicing  had  been  reached 
the  squadrons  would  return  to  their  regular  bases  and  be  replaced  by  fresh  squadrons. 

I In  spite  of  the  designation  this  unit  belonged  to  the  IX  AFSC. 

I 3 2 


THE  NINTH  AIR  FORCE 


with  it  the  supplies  it  actually  had  on  hand  in  England,  the  flow  of 
supplies  would  be  from  the  air  force  dumps  on  the  beaches  to  the  air- 
drome squadrons  or  service  teams  and  thence  to  the  combat  groups. 
After  the  air  depot  group  was  set  up,  it  would  receive  supplies  from 
England  via  the  beach  dumps  and  issue  them  to  the  airdrome  squad- 
rons and  service  teams.  There  was  no  specific  plan  to  set  up  a base 
depot  on  the  continent,  but  if  and  when  one  was  established  it  would 
come  under  the  control  of  USSTAF.79 

The  supply  of  POL  (petrol,  oil,  lubricants)  for  all  forces  would  be 
in  the  hands  of  the  Communications  Zone,*  since  the  air  force  had  no 
organization  for  the  purpose.  The  air  force  would  draw  its  POL  from 
Communications  Zone  dumps  and  transport  it  in  its  own  vehicles. 
After  D plus  20  no  packaged  aviation  POL  would  be  sent  to  Nor- 
mandy as  the  Communications  Zone  guaranteed  that  pipeline  facilities 
for  bulk  gasoline  would  be  in  operation  by  D plus  15.  The  service 
command  assumed  responsibility  for  flying  replacement  aircraft  to  the 
combat  units  from  its  reserve  pools  at  Membury  and  Chilbolton  in 
England.80 

The  service  command’s  truck  companies  would  go  ashore  in  Nor- 
mandy with  the  airdrome  squadrons  and  service  teams  but  immedi- 
ately thereafter  would  revert  to  the  control  of  their  own  battalion 
and  regimental  headquarters.  Combat  units  and  service  teams  would 
use  their  own  vehicles  to  meet  their  needs,  but  the  truck  regiments 
would  have  to  supply  the  bulk  of  the  transportation  for  hauling  sup- 
plies from  the  beaches  and  depots  to  the  airfields.  To  the  31st  Air 
Transport  Group  was  assigned  the  task  of  operating  a mail  carrier 
service  between  England  and  the  continent  and  transporting  such 
materiel  and  personnel  as  it  could  handle.81 

Aircraft  maintenance  would  be  initially  in  the  hands  of  the  air- 
drome squadrons,  to  be  relieved  later  by  the  ground  echelons  of  the 
combat  groups.  On  their  arrival  on  the  continent,  the  service  teams 
would  resume  performance  of  third-echelon  maintenance.  As  much 
repair  as  possible  would  be  done  on  aircraft,  but  those  which  could 
still  fly  would  be  sent  back  to  depots  in  England  for  repair.  All  en- 
gines in  need  of  overhauling  would  be  sent  back  to  England  also,  for 
the  air  depot  groups  would  not  bring  their  engine  overhaul  equipment 
with  them.  Aside  from  this,  the  air  depot  groups  would  perform 
fourth-echelon  maintenance  and  repair  once  they  had  established 

’The  Services  of  Supply,  ETO  was  thus  redesignated  in  June  1944. 


133 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

rhemselves  on  the  continent.  Mobile  reclamation  and  repair  squadrons 
attached  to  the  service  teams  would  he  responsible  for  third-echelon 
and  some  fourth-echelon  maintenance  of  field  artillery  liaison  aircraft. 
Salvage  would  be  held  on  the  continent  until  ports  became  available.82 

T raining 

The  contributions  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force  to  the  landings  in  Nor- 
mandy and  the  subsequent  defeat  of  the  German  armies  could  not 
have  been  so  impressively  successful  but  for  the  intensive  training  in 
which  it  engaged  during  the  seven  months  preceding  June  1944.  The 
high  degree  of  readiness  of  the  combat  groups  and  their  supporting 
service  units  on  D-day  attested  to  the  energy  and  speed  with  which 
most  of  them  had  carried  out  their  training  assignments. 

Training  a tactical  air  force  presented  special  problems  of  coordi- 
nation with  the  ground  armies,  and  many  units  required  training  for 
complex  amphibious  operations  during  the  initial  stages  of  OVER- 
LORD.  It  was  particularly  important  that  mutual  understanding  of 
the  principles  of  air-ground  cooperation  should  exist  between  air  and 
ground  staffs.  Accordingly,  the  Ninth  Air  Force  conducted  at  its 
headquarters  several  series  of  lectures  on  air  support  operations  for 
both  ground  and  air  officers,  beginning  in  December  1943  and  running 
through  the  spring  of  1 944.  Those  attending  ranged  all  the  way  from 
ground  and  air  force  commanders  down  to  division  staff  officers.  Spe- 
cial attention  was  paid  to  the  training  of  ground  force  officers  who 
were  assigned  to  combat  groups  as  liaison  officers  for  the  purpose  of 
interpreting  the  ground  situation  for  the  air  force  personnel.83 

Experience  in  tactical  air  force  operations  was  at  a premium.  Some 
of  the  commanders— notably  Brereton  and  Quesada— and  their  staffs 
had  had  much  combat  experience;  but  all  of  the  combat  units,  with 
the  exception  of  four  medium  bombardment  and  four  troop  carrier 
groups  (these  last  did  not  arrive  from  the  Mediterranean  until  March 
1944),  were  new  and  inexperienced.  The  tactics  and  techniques  of  the 
European  air  war  had  reached  heights  of  refinement  not  fully  incorpo- 
rated in  training  programs  in  the  United  States  and  there  was  need  for 
thoroughgoing  indoctrination  of  all  new  combat  groups  in  the  thea- 
ter. The  Eighth  Air  Force  made  available  its  schools  and  training 
aids,  which  were  of  special  importance  to  the  IX  Fighter  Command. 
The  Ninth,  also,  made  great  use  of  the  RAF’s  special  tactical  schools, 
particularly  the  gunnery,  army  cooperation,  and  low-level  attack 
schools.84 


1 34 


THE  NINTH  AIR  FORCE 


One  theme  ran  constantly  through  the  training  programs  under- 
taken by  Ninth  Air  Force  units,  and  that  theme  was  mobility.  All 
units  were  urged  to  “Keep  Mobile”  by  retaining  only  a minimum  of 
impedimenta  and  obtaining  a maximum  of  transportation.  All  units 
were  required  to  engage  in  mobility  exercises,  which  often  consisted 
of  overnight  moves  from  home  stations  to  other  stations  or  to  bivouac 
areas  and  then  return— exercises  of  more  value  and  significance  than 
many  of  the  harassed  and  exasperated  participants  realized.85 

The  commands  supervised  the  training  programs  of  their  units 
under  the  general  direction  of  air  force  headquarters.  The  bomber 
command,  thanks  to  its  heritage  of  four  medium  bombardment  groups 
from  the  VIII  Air  Support  Command,  possessed  a greater  reservoir  of 
experience  than  was  available  to  the  other  combat  commands,  but  it 
still  lacked  experience  in  air-ground  cooperation.  Information  was 
sought  from  the  Twelfth  Air  Force  in  Italy,  and  in  March  and  April, 
General  Anderson  and  members  of  his  staff  visited  Italy  and  observed 
tactical  operations  there.86  Much  effort  was  devoted  to  the  training 
of  bomber  crews  in  the  use  of  the  radar  aids  developed  by  the  RAF 
and  the  Eighth  Air  Force,  and  in  January  a provisional  pathfinder 
squadron  was  established.  With  an  eye  to  future  operations  on  the 
continent,  groups  were  given  experience  in  night  flying.  Bomber  com- 
mand units  also  participated  in  some  of  the  joint  amphibious  exer- 
cises which  were  carried  out  at  Slapton  Sands,  on  the  southern  coast 
of  Devonshire  near  Dartmouth,  at  intervals  during  the  winter  and 
spring.87  Even  the  four  original  bombardment  groups  of  the  Ninth 
Air  Force,  whose  bombing  incidentally  showed  diminishing  returns 
in  the  spring,  were  withdrawn  one  at  a time  from  operations  in  April 
and  May  for  a week  of  intensive  bombing  practice.  This  training 
proved  its  worth  in  the  increased  efficiency  of  the  groups  during  the 
pre-D-day  operations.88 

The  IX  Fighter  Command  retained  control  of  fighter  training  down 
to  D-day.  The  unavoidable  use  of  the  fighters  to  support  the  strategic 
bombing  campaign  delayed  their  training  as  fighter-bombers  until  the 
late  winter  and  spring  of  1944,  when  the  Ninth  was  released  from 
the  major  part  of  its  commitment  in  support  of  POINTBLANK.  In 
February  the  training  program  was  further  retarded  by  the  decision 
to  equip  virtually  all  of  the  fighter  command’s  groups  with  long-range 
tanks.  The  subsequent  slowdown  in  delivery  of  aircraft  and  in  train- 
ing delayed  the  operational  dates  of  several  groups.89  Beginning  in 
January,  when  Brig.  Gen.  Ned  L.  Schramm,  commander  of  the  71st 

135 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


Fighter  Wing,  and  ten  other  officers  visited  Italy,  the  fighter  com- 
mand sent  several  groups  of  officers  to  the  Twelfth  Air  Force  to  learn 
the  lessons  of  air  support.  These  officers  did  more  than  observe;  they 
participated  in  regular  missions  and  learned  from  personal  experience. 
Qualified  Twelfth  Air  Force  officers  were  brought  to  England  to  help 
prepare  programs  and  supervise  the  training  of  the  Ninth’s  fighter 
groups.  The  AEAF  established  a fighter  leaders’  school,  where  skilled 
American  and  British  pilots  from  Italy  instructed  more  than  one  hun- 
dred Ninth  Air  Force  pilots,  as  well  as  RAF  pilots,  by  the  beginning 
of  May.90  By  the  end  of  that  month,  a number  of  groups  still  needed 
additional  training  in  air  support  operations,  but  they  all  possessed  the 
minimum  necessary  for  combat.91 

Since  the  IX  Troop  Carrier  Command,  unlike  the  other  combat 
commands,  engaged  in  no  combat  operations  prior  to  D-day,  it  was 
able  to  devote  most  of  its  energies  to  training  its  groups.  Of  its  four- 
teen groups,  four  had  gained  experience  in  the  Mediterranean  before 
being  transferred  to  the  Ninth  in  1 944.  The  other  ten  groups,  all  new 
units  from  the  United  States,  had  to  be  trained  in  the  complexities  of 
large-scale  airborne  operations.  Like  the  bomber  and  fighter  com- 
mands, the  IX  TCC  sent  representatives  to  the  Mediterranean  to  study 
troop  carrier  operations.  A large  number  of  joint  exercises  with  British 
and  American  airborne  troops  were  carried  out,  particularly  during 
April  and  May,  with  as  many  as  three  or  four  groups  participating. 
Additional  experience  was  gained  by  flying  supply  and  medical  evacu- 
ation missions  within  the  United  Kingdom.  Like  the  bomber  com- 
mand, the  troop  carrier  command  established  a pathfinder  school  for 
selected  crews  and  devoted  much  time  to  night  exercises  in  prepa- 
ration for  the  pre-dawn  D-day  airborne  landings.92 

The  IX  Air  Force  Service  Command  had  one  of  the  most  difficult 
training  tasks  because  large  numbers  of  its  troops  arrived  from  the 
United  States  as  casuals  or  fillers,  unorganized  and  with  a bare  mini- 
mum of  basic  training.  Others  arrived  with  their  qualifications  ob- 
scured, and  the  Ninth  had  to  carry  out  a major  reclassification  pro- 
gram which  ultimately  affected  thousands  of  the  new  arrivals.  The 
greater  part  of  training  was  conducted  on  the  job  by  the  units  them- 
selves. This  training  was  hampered  by  a shortage  of  unit  equipment 
which  persisted  almost  until  D-day.  The  specialized  training  in  RAF 
and  ASC,  USSTAF  schools  was  accelerated  in  March  when  USSTAF 
gave  the  IX  AFSC  first  priority  on  available  technical  training  facili- 

136 


THE  NINTH  AIR  FORCE 


ties  for  the  ensuing  ten  weeks.  Much  time  was  spent  in  preparing  the 
special  type  units  which  would  be  required  on  the  continent.93 

The  IX  Engineer  Command  training  program  could  not  get  under 
way  until  the  SOS  began  to  turn  over  to  the  Ninth  Air  Force  the  engi- 
neer battalions  which  would  compose  the  command.  Many  of  these 
had  been  in  the  theater  for  a year  or  more  and  were  considered  pro- 
ficient in  general  construction  work,  but  they  needed  training  in  ad- 
vanced landing  ground  construction  and  the  use  of  lightweight  sur- 
facing materials  and,  particularly,  in  basic  infantry  tactics,  for  more 
than  any  other  Ninth  Air  Force  units  they  would  be  subject  to 
ground  attack.  Although  there  was  difficulty  in  obtaining  training 
sites  for  the  battalions,  the  program  was  begun  in  December  1943  and 
carried  forward  steadily  down  to  May  1944  when  additional  bat- 
talions were  turned  over  by  the  SOS  or  arrived  from  the  United 
States.  In  the  course  of  their  training  some  of  the  battalions  had  the 
opportunity  to  build  or  improve  advanced  landing  grounds  in  East 
Anglia  and  in  Kent  and  Southampton  areas,  but  most  of  them  later 
had  to  undertake  the  task  on  the  continent  without  this  experience. 
About  50  per  cent  of  the  training  schedule  time  was  devoted  to  basic 
infantry  and  engineering  subjects.  The  command  helped  train  the 
other  Ninth  Air  Force  commands  in  the  use  of  camouflage  and  the 
handling  of  booby  traps.94 

It  could  hardly  be  said  that  the  Ninth  Air  Force  training  program 
was  in  all  particulars  a model  one,  but  the  job  got  done  and  stood  the 
test  of  critically  important  operations.  If  at  points  there  was  ineffi- 
ciency there  was  also  the  mounting  pressure  of  many  other  claims  on 
time,  resources,  and  men.  The  accomplishment,  to  be  judged  properly, 
must  be  viewed  in  the  context  of  the  over-all  achievement  credited  to 
the  air  force.  That  achievement  bespeaks  much  careful  planning  and 
efficiency  of  execution;  it  speaks  too  of  a will  that  repeatedly  over- 
came the  mistakes  and  the  confusion  inherent  in  so  large  a military 
effort.  More  than  one  of  those  who  shared  in  the  effort  can  appreciate 
the  comment  of  a highly  experienced  supply  officer  after  his  inspec- 
tion of  IX  AFSC  in  May  1944:  excellent  results  had  been  obtained, 
he  observed,  “by  brute  force  [and]  wasted  manpower,  transportation, 
and  storage  space  rather  than  by  efficiency  of  operation.”05 


1 37 


CHAPTER  6 


* * * 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 

IN  A general  sense  all  Anglo-American  air  operations  conducted 
over  the  continent  since  the  beginning  of  hostilities  had  served 
to  prepare  the  way  for  the  long-awaited  invasion  of  northern 
France.  Especially  was  this  true  of  the  great  strategic  bombing  effort 
which  by  the  spring  of  1944  in  its  major  achievement  had  eliminated 
the  German  Air  Force  as  an  offensive  power.  But  there  remained  a 
multitude  of  tasks  to  be  accomplished  by  the  Allied  air  forces,  both 
strategic  and  tactical,  in  immediate  preparation  for  the  war’s  greatest 
amphibious  operation. 

The  primary  mission  set  forth  in  the  over-all  air  plan  for  OVER- 
LORD,  issued  on  23  April  1944,  was  the  attainment  and  maintenance 
of  an  air  situation  in  which  the  German  Air  Force  would  be  incapable 
of  interfering  with  the  Allied  landings.  The  plan  in  typical  air  force 
fashion  called  for  a three-phase  program.  In  the  first  or  preliminary 
phase,  extending  from  D minus  50  to  D minus  30,  the  stress  would  be 
placed  on  counter-air  force  operations  and  on  reconnaissance.  Air  pri- 
orities for  a second  or  preparatory  phase,  running  from  D minus  30  to 
D minus  1 , were  named  in  the  order  of  ( 1 ) the  German  Air  Force,  (2) 
strategic  railway  centers,  (3)  selected  coastal  batteries,  and  (4)  air- 
fields within  a radius  of  130  miles  of  Caen.1  The  assault  phase  would 
begin  on  the  night  before  D-day  when  American  paratroops,  in  num- 
bers not  yet  determined,  would  drop  on  the  Cotentin  Peninsula  and 
British  paratroops  descend  on  chosen  points  between  the  rivers  Orne 
and  Dives.  Over  the  beaches  five  Spitfire  squadrons  would  fly  low 
cover  while  five  P-47  squadrons  provided  high  cover.  To  protect  the 
armada  in  the  main  shipping  lane,  five  squadrons  of  easily  identifiable 
P-38’s  would  be  continuously  available,  flying  in  relays.  In  all,  fifty- 
four  squadrons  of  fighters  were  assigned  to  beach  cover,  fifteen  to  ship- 

138 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


ping  cover,  thirty-six  to  direct  support  of  ground  forces,  thirty-three 
to  escort  and  offensive  air  fighting,  and  thirty-three  to  a reserve  striking 
force— a total  of  171  squadrons.* 

In  a post-assault  phase,  air  would  continue  its  destruction  of  the 
Luftwaffe  and  maintain  bombing  pressure  on  Germany.  Other  chief 
tasks  would  be  to  delay  enemy  reinforcements  moving  toward  the  in- 
vasion area,  to  provide  air  transport,  to  support  ground  forces,  and  to 
perform  reconnaissance.  It  was  anticipated  that  with  the  development 
of  air  facilities  on  the  continent*  it  should  be  possible  by  D plus  40 
to  base  as  many  as  1 1 6 fighter  squadrons  in  France.3 

These  plans  rested  upon  the  assumption  that  the  Allies  would  enjoy 
the  advantage  of  overwhelming  strength  in  the  air.  Estimates  in  April 
indicated  that  the  combined  forces  of  the  AAF  and  RAF  in  the  United 
Kingdom  ready  for  operations  as  of  D-day  would  equal  1,407  U.S. 
heavy  bombers,  1,180  British  heavy  bombers,  835  light  and  medium 
bombers,  565  fighter-bombers,  2,250  day  fighters,  170  night  fighters, 
175  tactical  and  1 jo  photographic  reconnaissance  aircraft,  1,000  troop 
carriers,  and  1 20  transports;  opposing  this  vast  assemblage  of  aircraft 
the  Germans  might  dispose  of  1,950  planes  of  all  types,  of  which  num- 
ber perhaps  no  more  than  855  could  be  thrown  into  the  battle  for 
Normandy.4  Actually,  these  figures  proved  to  be  underestimates.  By 
D-day  British  and  American  air  strength  amounted  to  3,467  heavy 
bombers,  1,645  medium,  light,  and  torpedo  bombers,  5,409  fighters, 
and  2,316  transport  and  troop  carrier  aircraft— all  in  combat  squad- 
rons.5 Records  now  available  also  indicate  that  the  Germans  had  as 
many  as  3,222  fighters  and  bombers  in  condition  for  combat  on  the 
eve  of  the  invasion,6  but  these  revised  figures  call  for  no  correction 
of  the  basic  assumption  that  the  invading  forces  would  have  an  over- 
whelming advantage  in  the  air. 

The  nerve  center  for  control  of  the  great  air  armadas  scheduled  to 
serve  as  the  vanguard  of  the  Allied  assault  was  located  at  Uxbridge, 
where  the  RAF  had  directed  its  defense  of  London  during  the  Battle 
of  Britain  and  where  the  RAF’s  Second  Tactical  Air  Force  had  taken 
up  its  headquarters  under  Air  Marshal  Coningham.  The  Ninth  Air 
Force  had  established  an  advanced  headquarters  there  in  February  and 
shared  with  the  Second  Tactical  Air  Force  a combined  operations 
room  from  which  both  forces  directed  their  operations  in  close  consul- 
tation one  with  the  other.  Leigh-Mallory  having  won  out  in  his  insist- 

* See  above,  pp.  131-32. 

139 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

cnce  upon  the  establishment  of  an  advanced  operational  headquarters 
for  AEAF,*  that  too  was  located  at  Uxbridge  with  Coningham  in  com- 
mand. Its  authority,  however,  tended  to  be  more  nominal  than  real, 
for  Coningham  and  Brereton  worked  in  constant  association  to  achieve 
an  effective  collaboration  in  the  execution  of  directives  which  came 
down  from  Leigh-Mallory  but  had  their  origins  in  conferences  of  the 
tactical  air  commanders  with  Tedder,  Spaatz,  and  Harris.  Quesada’s 
IX  Fighter  Command  shared  with  the  RAF’s  1 1 Group  a combined 
control  center  at  Uxbridge  for  the  direction  of  fighter  operations,  and 
a combined  reconnaissance  center  supervised  another  vital  phase  of  air 
activity.  Advanced  AEAF  dealt  directly  with  Montgomery,  whose 
2 1 Army  Group  established  at  Uxbridge  an  element  to  relay  ground 
force  requests  and  to  provide  such  information  as  might  be  helpful  in 
the  development  of  an  effective  air-ground  collaboration.  Leigh-Mal- 
lory himself  remained  at  Stanmore  to  supervise  all  AEAF  operations 
and  to  coordinate  the  tactical  support  to  be  provided  by  the  heavy 
bombers.7 

A fantastically  complicated  system  of  communications  and  signals 
joined  Uxbridge  to  its  operating  units  and  to  associated  forces  on  land 
and  sea.  The  over-all  air  plan  provided  for  ship-to-shore,  point-to- 
point,  and  ground-to-air  signals  and  the  derivative  plans  of  lower  head- 
quarters in  their  communications  annexes  underscored  as  perhaps  noth- 
ing else  could  the  fact  that  this  was  a war  heavily  dependent  upon 
“magic,”  to  use  Mr.  Churchill’s  term.  On  each  of  the  five  headquarters 
ships  scheduled  to  accompany  the  initial  landing  force  an  air  repre- 
sentative would  be  available  to  advise  assault  commanders  and  to  direct 
Allied  aircraft  to  targets  in  the  Channel  or  on  the  beaches.  In  the  ship- 
ping lanes  three  fighter-direction  tenders  would  guide  the  fighters  to 
their  targets  and  provide  necessary  radar  and  signal  controls.  As  quick- 
ly as  possible,  ground-control  interception  stations  would  go  into  oper- 
ation on  the  continent.  Air,  ground,  and  naval  headquarters  exchanged 
liaison  officers  to  assure  close  contact  and  understanding.  Air  support 
parties  would  accompany  the  assault  forces  to  facilitate  timely  air  as- 
sistance. Until  the  Allied  forces  could  be  firmly  established  on  the  con- 
tinent the  diverse  lines  of  communication  would  be  tied  together  chiefly 
through  the  combined  control  center  at  Uxbridge.8  This  plan  in  its  es- 
sential details  was  that  followed. 

* See  above,  p.  no. 


14O 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


The  Assignments 

The  heaviest  and  most  critical  responsibilities  assigned  to  any  single 
air  organization  fell  upon  the  Ninth  Air  Force,  whose  tactical  air  plan 
for  the  invasion,  dated  26  April,  expanded  appropriate  sections  of 
AEAF’s  over-all  air  plan.  IX  Bomber  Command  would  devote  the  pre- 
liminary phase  to  training  and  to  attacking  railway  centers,  robot- 
bomb  installations,  airfields,  and  coastal  batteries.  These  tasks  would 
continue  during  the  preparatory  phase,  together  with  the  additional 
objective  of  neutralizing  airfields  within  130  miles  of  Caen  and  se- 
lected radar  stations.  Before  H-hour  on  D-day  its  eleven  groups  of 
A-2o’s  and  B-26’s  would  attack  six  heavy  gun  batteries  which  were 
in  a position  to  fire  on  the  assault  forces  in  the  Channel,  those  at  Bar- 
fleur,  Maisy,  Pointe  du  Hoe,  Benerville,  and  Ouistreham  I and  II,  and, 
five  minutes  before  touchdown,  the  mediums  would  bomb  seven  de- 
fended localities  behind  UTAH  beach.  Those  operations  completed, 
IX  Bomber  Command’s  bombers  would  return  to  base  to  be  made  ready 
for  any  other  missions  that  might  be  assigned.9 

IX  Fighter  Command,  functioning  through  IX  Tactical  Air  Com- 
mand until  the  U.S.  Third  Army  was  ready  to  operate  in  France,* 
would  provide  escort  for  bombers,  perform  reconnaissance,  and  carry 
out  offensive  sweeps  over  France.  It  was  scheduled  to  provide  during 
the  assault  phase  the  five  P-47  groups  for  high  cover  over  the  beach 
area  and  two  P-38  groups  which,  with  four  groups  of  Eighth  Air 
Force  Lightnings,  would  maintain  continuous  daylight  patrol  over  the 
invasion  armada.  Two  other  P-38  groups  and  four  P-47  groups  of  IX 
TAC  would  bomb  enemy  gun  batteries  about  H-hour  and  furnish  di- 
rect support  for  the  ground  forces  thereafter  as  requested.  Five  fighter 
groups  would  be  held  in  readiness  as  part  of  the  reserve  striking  force.10 
The  pre-invasion  operations  interfered  seriously  with  plans  for  train- 
ing in  conjunction  with  the  ground  forces,  and  it  was  only  after  a 
period  of  intensive  combat  that  air-ground  coordination  reached  the 
remarkable  degree  of  effectiveness  which  became  so  deservedly  re- 
nowned.11 

The  enormous  responsibilities  imposed  on  IX  Air  Force  Service 
Command  have  already  been  indicated,  as  also  those  falling  to  IX  Engi- 

* On  rhe  IX  and  XIX  Tactical  Air  Commands,  see  above,  pp.  112-13. 

H1 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

necr  Command.*  The  administrative  plan  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force  listed 
additional  details  that  had  to  be  anticipated  as  comprehensively  as  cir- 
cumstances would  allow.  All  kinds  of  measures  were  necessary  to 
mark  supplies  and  equipment  with  the  familiar  Ace  of  Spades  insignia 
of  the  Ninth,  to  waterproof  property,  and  generally  to  comply  with 
that  well-titled  manual,  Preparation  for  Overseas  Movement:  Short 
Sea  Voyage.  There  were  problems  of  estimated  casualties,  resupply, 
replacement  of  personnel,  emergency  reserves,  baggage,  currency,  and 
many  others  to  be  attended  to.  Probably  the  most  time-consuming  and 
exacting  task  which  confronted  the  Ninth  Air  Force  planners  was  the 
preparation  of  troop  lists.12  When  completed,  the  aggregate  Ninth  Air 
Force  plan  for  the  invasion  weighed,  as  General  Brereton  noted  in  his 
diary,  ten  pounds  and  three  ounces,  and  it  contained  847,000  words  on 
both  sides  of  1,376  pages  of  legal-size  paper.13  After  the  war  Brereton 
judged  that  the  tactical  air  plans  for  the  invasion  could  not  have  been 
significantly  improved.14 

With  the  controversies  regarding  the  transportation  plan  and  the 
command  system  out  of  the  way,  the  top  SHAEF  and  strategic  air 
commanders  developed  a detailed  program,  which  was  included  in  the 
main  in  the  over-all  air  plan,  for  the  employment  of  Eighth  Air  Force 
and  RAF  Bomber  Command  heavies.  The  first  master  SHAEF  direc- 
tive after  Eisenhower  assumed  direction  of  the  heavy  bombers  on  14 
April+  called  upon  USSTAF  to  continue  its  campaign  to  destroy  the 
German  Air  Force  as  first  priority  and  as  second  priority  to  attack  the 
enemy’s  rail  centers.  RAF  Bomber  Command  was  to  proceed  with  its 
general  disorganization  of  German  industry  and  to  begin  its  share, 
which  eventually  proved  to  be  the  largest  of  all,  of  the  transportation 
plan,15  the  term  usually  used  to  indicate  the  Allied  scheme  for  disrupt- 
ing enemy  communications.  Soon  afterward  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force 
received  a directive  to  bomb  marshalling  yards  in  southern  Germany 
and  France  in  conjunction  with  the  pre-OVERLORD  attacks.16  As  the 
time  for  the  invasion  approached,  other  directives,  some  of  which  were 
based  on  requests  by  tactical  air,  naval,  and  ground  commanders,  were 
given  the  strategic  air  forces.17  In  addition  to  the  destruction  of  enemy 
transportation,  heavy  bombers  were  to  attack  coastal  batteries,  V-bomb 
sites,  airdromes,  and  bridges  and  to  continue  their  deep  penetrations  of 
Germany  proper  in  order  to  pin  down  the  enemy’s  fighter  strength. 

* See  above,  pp.  130-34. 

t See  above,  p.  81. 


l42 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


With  the  main  campaigns  completed  by  i June  1944,  the  Eighth  Air 
Force  was  to  send  60  per  cent  of  its  bombers  into  the  Reich  on  D minus 

3 or  D minus  2 as  weather  permitted  and  to  dispatch  the  remaining 
40  per  cent  to  plaster  the  Pas-de-Calais  area  as  part  of  the  deception 
plan.  On  D minus  1,  half  of  its  forces  would  rest  while  25  per  cent 
bombed  seven  targets  in  Normandy  and  the  other  25  per  cent  attacked 
seven  objectives  in  the  Pas-de-Calais.  If  by  that  time  the  Allies  knew 
the  Germans  had  found  out  where  the  invasion  blow  was  to  land,  then 
the  total  attacking  force  would  concentrate  on  Normandy.  (When  on 

4 June,  D-day  was  postponed  from  5 June  until  6 June,  this  program 
for  D minus  1 bombings  was  carried  out  a second  time.)  On  D-day  it- 
self all  available  British  and  American  heavies  were  to  conduct  a mas- 
sive bombardment  of  the  coast  before  the  landings.18 

This  last  commitment  was  indeed  a spectacular  one.  The  RAF  would 
drench  the  invasion  beaches  with  about  6,000  tons  of  bombs  in  the 
early  hours  of  D-day.  In  the  last  half-hour  before  the  actual  landing  it 
would  be  desirable,  General  Montgomery’s  headquarters  estimated,  to 
place  7,800  tons  of  explosives  on  the  shore.  Of  this  amount  only  2,500 
tons  could  be  delivered  by  naval  guns  and  500  tons  by  medium  bomb- 
ers. Thus  it  fell  to  the  day-flying  heavies  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force  to 
attack  with  4,800  tons,  and  this  duty  made  it  necessary  to  plan  on 
using  the  record  number  of  1,200  heavy  bombers.19  In  order  to  allow 
enough  time  for  such  a vast  air  fleet  to  assemble  in  daylight  and  to 
bomb  for  the  full  thirty  minutes  before  touchdown,  H-hour  on  some 
of  the  beaches  had  to  be  postponed  for  ten  minutes,  although  the 
Eighth  had  requested  a half-hour  delay.20  And  because  of  the  congested 
condition  of  the  airways  on  D-day,  it  was  decided  to  allot  OMAHA 
and  the  three  British  beaches  (JUNO,  SWORD,  and  GOLD)  to  the 
Eighth  Air  Force  and  leave  UTAH  to  the  Ninth.  Even  so,  the  problem 
of  routing  the  thousands  of  aircraft  that  would  be  aloft  on  D-day  was 
enormously  complicated.  Each  of  the  three  bombardment  divisions  of 
the  Eighth  would  have  to  assemble  in  a special  sky  sector  over  cen- 
tral England,  in  some  cases  100  miles  from  bases,  and  fly  southward 
through  definite  corridors  across  the  Channel.  The  bombers  would  ap- 
proach the  beaches  at  right  angles,  straight  from  the  sea,  deluge  them 
with  bombs,  and  withdraw  by  way  of  the  Cotenrin  Peninsula  into 
western  England.21 

Much  skepticism  prevailed  in  advance  as  to  the  value  of  this  last- 
minute  bombardment,  and  contrary  to  a common  belief  it  was  the  air- 


143 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


men  who  held  the  most  conservative  views.  Ground  force  commanders 
tended  to  overestimate  the  effect  of  bomb  tonnage  on  casemated  ene- 
my batteries,  strongpoints,  and  the  entire  hideous  apparatus  of  beach 
obstacles.  Air  force  leaders  were  inclined  to  minimize  the  importance 
of  driving  away  the  crews  who  manned  those  defenses,  but  they  agreed 
to  lay  on  the  attack  demanded  by  the  other  services.22  Among  the  mis- 
givings on  the  part  of  the  air  commanders  was  the  possibility  that  the 
beaches  might  be  so  cratered  the  enemy  could  better  defend  them.  An 
experiment  conducted  by  the  Eighth  Air  Force  indicated  this  would  be 
the  case  if  the  usual  500-  and  1,000-pound  bombs  were  used.23  Conse- 
quently, it  was  decided  to  attack  with  ioo-pound  demolition  and  frag- 
mentation bombs  except  for  strongpoints  and  areas  where  craters 
would  not  impede  the  Allied  ground  forces.  Further  concern  arose 
over  the  danger  that  even  a small  degree  of  inaccuracy  in  bombing 
would  result  in  the  killing  of  large  numbers  of  friendly  troops  in  land- 
ing craft  offshore.  Spaatz,  Tedder,  and  Leigh-Mallory  accordingly 
recommended  that  the  invading  forces  maintain  a safety  distance  of  at 
least  1,500  yards  for  the  duration  of  the  bombardment.24  Ground  and 
naval  commanders  were  not  willing  to  risk  losing  the  tactical  benefits 
of  a stunning  beach  bombardment,  but  a demonstration  soon  convinced 
General  Eisenhower  of  the  peril,  and  the  final  plan  prescribed  that  the 
bombings  cease  five  minutes  before  touchdown  if  visual  conditions 
prevailed  and  ten  minutes  if  the  skies  were  overcast,  thus  allowing  a 
safety  zone  of  about  1 ,000  yards.25 

After  the  beach  bombings  were  over,  Eighth  Air  Force  heavies 
would  return  to  base  for  refueling  and  reloading.  Leigh-Mallory,  who 
was  to  control  the  tactical  operations  of  the  strategic  air  forces  after  1 
June  1944,  instructed  the  Eighth  Air  Force  to  carry  out  three  other 
missions  during  D-day  against  bridges  and  such  towns  as  Carentan, 
La  Pernelle,  Benerville,  Houlgate,  Villerville,  and  Caen.26  His  purpose 
was  to  block  transportation  chokepoints  and  thus  create  obstructions  to 
German  military  movements,27  but  widespread  damage  and  heavy  ci- 
vilian casualties  were  likely  to  be  attendant  consequences.  Both  Spaatz 
and  Doolittle  regarded  such  bombing  as  not  only  inhumane  but  as  like- 
ly to  be  ineffective  except  for  a temporary  interruption  of  German 
reinforcement.  Indeed,  Spaatz  declared  that  the  plan  for  heavy  bomber 
employment  on  D-day  was  too  inflexible,  for  it  absorbed  the  entire 
available  effort  without  allowing  for  changing  battle  conditions.  He 
also  criticized  Leigh-Mallory’s  plan  to  retain  a large  fighter  reserve.28 

H4 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


At  the  commanders’  meeting  on  3 June  1944  Leigh-Mallory  stoutly 
defended  his  ideas  and  threatened  that  he  could  not  accept  his  responsi- 
bility as  air  commander  in  chief  if  the  plans  were  altered.29  He  won  his 
point  and  the  missions  were  permitted  to  stand,  although  SHAEF  made 
a partial  concession  to  Spaatz  and  Doolittle  by  giving  permission  to 
warn  all  French  towns  near  the  coast  by  means  of  leaflets  about  im- 
pending bombings.30 

The  prime  function  of  VIII  Fighter  Command  was  to  provide  escort 
for  the  heavy  bombers,  but  during  the  months  before  D-day  its  fighter 
pilots  devoted  much  effort  to  low-level  strafing,  dive  bombing,  and 
other  types  of  operations  which  were  useful  in  preparing  them  for 
assisting  the  ground  forces.31  The  general  scheme  for  OVERLORD 
involved  employing  these  fighters  mainly  outside  the  immediate  assault 
area,  which  was  the  province  of  AEAF.32  The  four  P-38  groups  flying 
high  cover  with  Ninth  Air  Force  fighters  over  the  invasion  armada 
would  be  controlled  from  Uxbridge,  but  the  remaining  fighter  groups 
of  VIII  Fighter  Command  would  operate  under  Eighth  Air  Force 
direction  to  protect  RAF  bombers  and  IX  Troop  Carrier  Command 
transports  withdrawing  from  France  on  D-day,  to  fly  escort  for  Eighth 
and  Ninth  Air  Force  bomber  missions  all  during  the  day,  and  to  attack 
tactical  targets  in  the  critical  area  of  France  bounded  by  the  Seine,  the 
Loire,  and  a line  running  from  Paris  to  Orleans.  This  last  type  of  oper- 
ation, divided  into  phases  FULL  HOUSE,  STUD,  and  ROYAL 
FLUSH,  would  be  directed  at  trains,  dumps,  troops,  airfields,  and  tar- 
gets of  opportunity  past  the  immediate  invasion  area.33 

By  the  last  of  May  final  preparations  for  the  employment  of  the  U.S. 
101st  and  8 2d  Airborne  Divisions  and  IX  Troop  Carrier  Command  in 
the  Cotentin  Peninsula  had  been  completed.  The  British  airborne  and 
glider  landings  in  the  vicinity  of  Caen  had  stood  as  firm  commitments 
since  January,  but  instructions  for  the  American  units  were  delayed  be- 
cause of  uncertainties  regarding  the  arrival  of  a sufficient  number  of 
trained  forces  and  Leigh-Mallory’s  conviction  that  the  Cotentin  land- 
ing would  probably  result  in  an  unacceptable  number  of  casualties. 
SHAEF  received  disturbing  reports  of  German  reinforcement  of  the 
Cotentin  area  late  in  May,34  and  it  was  apparent  that  the  landing  was 
likely  to  be  perilous.  The  tentative  plan  was  to  dispatch  pathfinder  air- 
craft very  early  on  the  morning  of  the  landings  to  drop  parties  who 
would  mark  the  landing  zones  with  lighted  tees  and  establish  radar  bea- 
cons to  guide  the  main  forces.  The  air  trains  of  unarmed  transports 

H5 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


would  fly  across  the  Channel  at  1,000  feet,  skirt  the  bristling  Channel 
Islands,  and  cut  across  the  well-defended  Cotentin  Peninsula  from  the 
west.  It  could  be  anticipated  that  drop  and  landing  zones  might  be 
difficult  to  locate,  and  that  antiaircraft  defenses  would  be  alerted. 
Small-arms  fire  could  shoot  up  the  low-flying  troop  carriers,  which  did 
not  have  leakproof  tanks,  and  the  Allies  knew  the  Germans  had  stakes, 
spikes,  artificially  flooded  areas,  and  other  traps  to  catch  the  descend- 
ing paratroops  and  gliders.35  Furthermore,  there  was  little  in  the  way 
of  air  protection  which  could  be  given  the  vulnerable  airborne  forces 
except  a few  Mosquito  night  fighters.  RAF  Bomber  Command  planned 
to  bomb  the  area  just  before  the  airborne  attack  in  the  hope  of  inducing 
the  enemy  to  expose  his  searchlights  and  flak  to  strafing  by  night  fight- 
ers; and  a diversionary  force  of  RAF  Stirling  bombers  would  drop 
Window  to  simulate  a troop  carrier  operation  going  to  a different  area, 
where  it  would  discharge  dummy  paratroops  and  noisemakers.30  Still, 
the  American  operation  was  clearly  hazardous  and  might  even  prove 
disastrous.  Leigh-Mallory  regarded  it  as  a potential  holocaust  and  duti- 
fully informed  the  supreme  commander  on  29  May  of  his  views.37 

General  Eisenhower  made  the  lonely  decision  that  the  U.S.  airborne 
landing  was  feasible  and  in  any  event  vital  to  the  seizure  of  UTAH 
beach,  which  in  turn  was  vital  for  the  conquest  of  the  port  of  Cher- 
bourg.38 Then,  on  31  May  1944,  the  final  airborne  plan  was  issued. 
At  0200  on  D-day  432  aircraft  of  IX  Troop  Carrier  Command  would 
begin  dropping  the  101st  Airborne  Division  in  the  general  area  about 
Ste.-Mere-Eglise,  followed  at  0400  by  transports  pulling  50  gliders. 
The  82d  Airborne  Division— which  not  long  before  had  been  scheduled 
to  land  on  the  next  night— was  instead  placed  in  the  initial  assault.  From 
3 69  aircraft  and  5 2 gliders  its  parachute  and  glider  infantry  would  land, 
beginning  at  0121,  to  the  west  of  the  101st  Airborne  Division  sector. 
The  two  divisions  were  to  gather  up  their  guns,  jeeps,  and  other  equip- 
ment and  attempt  to  organize  in  time  to  obstruct  German  movement 
toward  UTAH  beach.  On  the  evening  of  D-day  reinforcements  of 
men  and  equipment  would  be  flown  in.39 

What  if  the  weather  were  bad  on  D-day,  bad  enough  to  prevent  vis- 
ual bombing  or  even  flying?  That  such  might  be  the  case  was  one  of  the 
factors  General  Eisenhower  had  considered  when  he  recommended 
the  postponement  of  the  invasion  from  May  to  June.  Predictions  for 
the  first  few  days  of  June  confirmed  the  worst  fears;  and  if  7 June 
were  allowed  to  go  by,  OVERLORD  could  not  jump  off  for  another 

146 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


month  because  of  the  tides.  On  i June,  AEAF  headquarters  prepared  a 
bad-weather  plan  for  air  operations.  If  visual  conditions  did  not  prevail 
on  D-day  (and  they  did  not),  the  Eighth  Air  Force  would  have  to  use 
FhX-equipped  pathfinder  aircraft  to  lead  the  bomber  forces  to  the  in- 
vasion beaches  and  the  town  of  Caen,  both  of  which  would  be  bombed 
blindly.  Also,  the  bombardiers  would  have  to  delay  releases  for  a few 
seconds  to  make  sure  the  bombs  did  not  fall  on  the  invasion  forces.40 
Recent  experiences  in  radar  blind  bombing  had  indicated  that  little 
accuracy  could  be  expected,  although  the  Eighth  Air  Force  had  made 
notable  efforts  during  the  spring  of  1 944  to  train  key  crews  in  the  use 
of  H2X.  General  Doolittle  took  the  additional  precaution  of  planning 
to  break  his  heavy  bomber  forces  into  200  six-aircraft  formations  in- 
stead of  40  thirty-bomber  boxes  and  to  fuze  all  bombs  for  instantaneous 
detonation  so  as  to  avoid  unnecessary  cratering  of  the  beaches.  The 
medium  bombers  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force  were  to  employ  Oboe  in  the 
event  of  adverse  weather  and  attack  only  the  principal  targets  on  the 
list.  Probably  they  would  not  even  attempt  to  bomb  the  other  objec- 
tives.41 

There  remained  even  the  nightmarish  possibility  that  because  of 
weather  conditions  no  bombers  could  take  to  the  skies  on  D-day.  Gen- 
eral Montgomery  said  the  invasion  would  not  be  scrubbed  in  that 
event.  Accordingly,  the  air  commanders  planned  to  hold  their  bombers 
in  readiness  at  base  to  await  a break  in  conditions  and  to  dispatch  half 
the  fighter-bombers  available  to  attack  the  invasion  beaches  at  H minus 
15  minutes.  This  fighter-bomber  operation  seemed  likely  to  prove 
suicidal  for  most  of  the  pilots  involved.  But  the  invasion  machinery 
had  to  be  set  in  motion  forty-eight  hours  before  FI-hour.42  Spaatz, 
Doolittle,  and  Kepner  privately  vowed  to  protect  the  doughboys  with 
all  the  forces  they  could  get  into  the  air,  even  if  they  themselves  were 
lost  in  the  process.43 

The  formal  presentation  of  all  OVERLORD  plans  took  place  on  1 5 
May  1944  at  the  final  full-dress  conference  held  at  SFIAEF.  After  that, 
the  various  commanders,  headquarters,  and  combat  units  busied  them- 
selves making  preparations,  checking  details,  and  generally  attending 
to  last-minute  matters.  Doolittle  was  worried  about  a possible  enemy 
effort  to  neutralize  English  airfields  by  means  of  parachutists  at  the 
critical  period  and  suggested  that  defenses  be  tightened.44  Urgent  mes- 
sages were  sent  to  Washington  to  expedite  the  shipment  of  small  bombs 
and  high-octane  gasoline.  Washington,  in  turn,  prepared  to  rush  enor- 


147 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


mous  reinforcements  of  aircraft  and  crews  to  Britain  if  they  were 
needed.45  Spaatz  drafted  his  recommendation  for  the  eventuality  that 
Hitler  might  use  poison  gas  to  combat  the  invasion:  the  Allies  should 
not  retaliate  in  kind  on  German  cities  but  continue  to  use  the  most 
harmful  weapon  they  possessed,  the  heavy  bomber.46  The  Mediter- 
ranean Allied  Air  Forces  had  orders  to  reinforce  or  assist  the  northern 
invasion  forces  should  it  prove  necessary,  and  the  first  shuttle-bombing 
mission  between  Italy  and  the  Soviet  Union  was  carried  out  just  before 
D-day  to  distract  the  Germans  on  the  eve  of  the  assault  on  Normandy. 

Preparations  reached  all  the  way  into  the  smaller  air  units,  touching 
such  personal  matters  as  mail,  leaves  and  furloughs,  rotation,  freedom 
of  movement,  and  rest  periods  just  before  D-day.  Morale  was  undoubt- 
edly high,  conspicuously  so,47  and  tension  was  great.  To  be  sure,  invad- 
ing continental  Europe  was  nothing  new  to  thousands  of  airmen  who 
had  been  engaging  in  the  practice  for  many  months.  But  the  historic 
importance  of  the  events  about  to  unfold  was  everywhere  sensed.  As 
for  OVERLORD  planning,  it  continued  until  that  operation,  over- 
whelmingly successful,  merged  into  other  strategic  phases  of  the  Euro- 
pean war.  Only  the  pre-assault  stage  of  preparations  was  completed 
when  General  Eisenhower  decided  at  0415  on  5 June  1944  to  launch 
the  invasion  despite  disturbing  weather  reports,  or  when  General  Doo- 
little gave  orders  at  2200  that  night  to  prepare  the  Eighth  Air  Force’s 
heavies  for  blind  bombing  of  the  beaches,  or  when  at  midnight  Eisen- 
hower and  Brereton  watched  IX  Troop  Carrier  Command  transports 
take  off  with  blackened  paratroops  for  the  Cotentin  Peninsula.48 

During  the  last  few  weeks  before  D-day  the  leaders  and  planners, 
from  such  august  headquarters  as  SHAEF,  USSTAF,  AEAF,  and 
RAF  Bomber  Command  down  to  the  airplane  commanders  and  crew 
chiefs,  had  labored  intensely  to  perfect  air  preparations  for  OVER- 
LORD.  An  unprecedented  degree  of  harmony  in  purpose,  if  not  al- 
ways in  methods,  had  prevailed,  and  the  spirit  of  cooperation  among 
the  various  headquarters  and  individuals  would  later  seem  one  of  the 
more  remarkable  features  of  a long  war.  From  the  first  General  Eisen- 
hower had  set  the  pace  for  mutual  trust,  friendliness,  and  determina- 
tion, and  his  example  was  an  inspiration.  He  made  a brief  statement  at 
the  air  commanders’  meeting  on  31  May  1944,  where  the  minutes 
record: 

The  SUPREME  COMMANDER  said  that  he  would  like  to  take  this  oppor- 
tunity of  saying  a few  words  to  the  Commanders  and  their  Staffs.  He  said  that 

148 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


for  him,  military  operations  were  always  a matter  of  human  beings  and  not 
of  mathematical  calculations,  and  that  he  would  like  it  to  be  known  by  the  men 
who  were  fighting  the  battle  how  much  the  Commanders  reckoned  on  what  they 
had  done  and  would  do.  In  the  preliminary  stages  of  planning  a good  motto  was 
“Doubts  must  come  up,  only  enthusiasm  must  go  down.”  Now  that  the  plans  were 
completed  and  the  battle  on,  doubts  in  the  minds  of  the  Commanders  must  not  be 
allowed  to  reach  those  who  were  fighting  the  operation,  and  he  instanced  the 
airborne  operation  as  one  that  had  been  criticised.  They  must  feel  that  the  best 
plans  had  been  made  and  that  the  operation  was  worth  while.  He  said  he  would 
like  a message  from  the  Air  Commander-in-Chief,  and  one  from  himself,  to  be 
passed  to  crews  at  final  briefing.49 

Attrition  of  Enemy's  Railway  System 

Until  io  March  1944  the  Ninth  Air  Force  had  been  primarily  en- 
gaged in  assisting  the  strategic  air  forces,  to  the  restlessness  of  both 
Leigh-Mallory  and  Brereton,  but  on  that  date  its  bombers  were  freed 
for  concentration  on  pre-invasion  operations.50  The  Eighth  Air  Force 
still  had  first  call  on  the  Ninth’s  fighters  for  escort  tasks,  a prerogative 
which  it  used  more  liberally  than  tactical  air  commanders  liked.51  By 
1 April,  however,  the  demands  of  the  invasion  became  paramount  in 
the  apportionment  of  all  air  effort.  USSTAF  continued  to  have  as  its 
first  priority  the  over-all  reduction  of  German  air  strength  and  RAF 
Bomber  Command  carried  on  its  program  of  attacks  on  industrial  cen- 
ters,52 but  the  heavies,  which  until  1 June  took  their  assignments  from 
Tedder,  found  other  targets  requiring  an  increasing  proportion  of  their 
effort.  As  the  weeks  went  by,  the  transportation  campaign  absorbed 
more  and  more  of  the  effort,  and  at  times  the  heavy  bombers  gave  high, 
even  first,  priority  to  attacks  on  robot-bomb  launching  sites  in  France. 
Priorities  for  other  target  systems— airfields  in  France,  oil  production, 
coastal  defenses,  and  ordnance  depots— shifted  repeatedly.53  The  small- 
er forces  of  the  AEAF*  took  their  orders  from  Leigh-Mallory,  who 
elected  to  spread  his  commitments  so  that  five  or  six  different  bombing 
campaigns  would  be  going  on  simultaneously,  although  his  new  deputy 
in  AEAF,  Maj.  Gen.  Hoyt  S.  Vandenberg,  advised  concentration  on 
one  program  after  another.54  Each  tactical  air  force  worked  within  a 
flexible  framework  permitting  adjustment  to  conditions  of  weather, 
problems  of  training,  and  other  considerations,  but  the  transportation 
campaign  in  general  held  first  claim. 

The  cardinal  purpose  of  the  transportation  plan  approved  by  Eisen- 

• As  of  1 April,  AEAF  included  496  American  and  70  British  medium  bombers, 
96  American  and  38  British  light  bombers,  and  670  American  and  1,764  British  fighters. 

149 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


hower  on  26  March,  after  a protracted  controversy,*  was  to  isolate 
the  invasion  area.  As  Leigh-Mallory’s  railway  experts  envisaged  the 
task,  the  isolation  was  to  be  achieved  mainly  through  extensive  bomb- 
ing of  vital  rail  centers  and  repair  facilities.  Already  the  French  system, 
the  Societe  Nationale  de  Chemins  de  Fer  Frangais,  or  SNCF,  was  be- 
lieved to  be  in  a bad  way.  Aside  from  the  wear  and  tear  it  had  suffered 
during  several  years  of  wartime  use,  the  SNCF  had  lost  perhaps  one- 
third  of  its  locomotives  through  expropriation  by  the  Nazis.  Deficien- 
cies of  track,  rolling  stock,  reliable  workmen,  coal,  and  other  prerequi- 
sites had  brought  French  rail  transportation  to  a condition  of  severe 
strain.  If  two-thirds  of  SNCF  capacity  were  devoted  to  carrying  Ger- 
man military  traffic,  as  AEAF  experts  contended,  about  45,000  tons  of 
well-placed  bombs  should  produce  a chaotic  situation  for  the  enemy.55 
The  Belgian  system  was  believed  to  be  almost  as  vulnerable  as  the 
French,  and  a railway  attrition  campaign  in  the  Balkans  carried  on  by 
the  Mediterranean  Allied  Air  Forces  could  be  expected  to  aggravate 
Germany’s  transportation  crisis.  When  the  enemy’s  railway  system  had 
lost  its  flexibility  and  much  of  its  capacity  from  such  operations,  the 
Allies  would  lay  on  an  interdiction  program  shortly  before  D-day  to 
seal  off  Normandy. 

The  transportation  plan  singled  out  as  the  chief  targets  routine 
servicing  facilities  in  the  key  rail  centers,  since  their  destruction  would 
be  likely  to  cripple  the  entire  system  immediately.56  Damage  to  locoj- 
motives,  marshalling  yards,  switches,  rolling  stock,  tracks,  and  stations 
would  be  regarded  as  a bonus,  an  incidental  contribution  to  the  ruin  of 
the  enemy’s  railway  systems.  It  was  planned  to  concentrate  bombing 
attacks  on  rail  centers  in  Belgium  and  the  Region  Nord  of  the  SNCF, 
where  the  network  was  thickest.  A rail  chaos  there  would  prevent  the 
Germans  from  reinforcing  their  counterinvasion  divisions  at  the  criti- 
cal time  from  the  area  where  most  of  their  reserves  were  stationed. 
Also,  coal  for  locomotives  might  be  cut  off  from  the  rest  of  France,  and 
confusion  would  be  created  with  respect  to  the  site  of  the  invasion. 
As  it  was  supposed  to  work  out,  the  Normandy  area,  far  to  the  south- 
west, would  be  isolated  while  the  Germans  would  be  led  to  believe  the 
Allies  were  endeavoring  to  interdict  Calais. 

When  the  Ninth  Air  Force  became  available  for  pre-invasion  bomb- 
ing on  10  March  1944,  it  was  assigned  thirty  targets  in  Belgium  and 
north  central  France  from  the  list  of  the  transportation  plan,  although 

* See  above,  pp.  72-79. 

I50 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


the  plan  itself  was  still  under  debate  and  only  nine  of  the  targets  had 
been  cleared  at  that  time  for  bombing  because  of  the  hesitations  of  the 
British  War  Cabinet  about  exposing  friendly  civilians.  During  March 
the  Ninth  went  ahead  with  such  missions  as  were  possible  for  it,  attack- 
ing four  times  the  rail  center  at  Creil,  which  was  destined  to  become 
the  most  bombed  target  of  this  type  in  France.  Brereton’s  air  force  also 
achieved  substantial  success  in  bombing  the  rail  centers  at  Hirson, 
Amiens,  and  Charleroi.57  The  Second  TAF  participated  in  the  trans- 
portation campaign  by  attacking  other  rail  centers  in  northwestern 
France  and  Belgium,  and  RAF  Bomber  Command,  which  was  experi- 
menting in  methods  of  attacking  railway  installations  at  night  without 
slaughtering  the  inhabitants  in  their  vicinity,  inflicted  considerable 
damage  on  Le  Mans,  Amiens,  Laon,  Aulnoye,  Trappes,  and  Courtrai.58 
By  the  end  of  March  no  spectacular  results  were  apparent  in  the  rail 
center  campaign,  but  champions  of  the  transportation  plan  drew  en- 
couragement from  the  havoc  wrought  on  repair  installations  and  mar- 
shalling yards  and  had  won,  moreover,  Eisenhower’s  acceptance  of 
the  plan. 

In  the  first  half  of  April  the  Ninth  Air  Force  continued  to  operate 
with  usually  good  results  against  the  rail  centers.  Among  the  chief 
attacks  was  an  afternoon  mission  on  8 April  to  Hasselt,  in  northeastern 
Belgium,  by  163  B-26’s,  which  dropped  263  tons  of  bombs,  and  by  101 
P~47’s  which  discharged  120  x 250-pound  bombs  in  diving  attacks.59 
Two  days  later  smoke  was  still  rising  from  the  damaged  repair  shops 
when  56  P-5  i’s  returned  to  dive-bomb  the  target.  On  9 April  a spirited 
fighter  operation,  involving  48  P-47’s,  stopped  troop  and  freight  trains 
moving  toward  the  invasion  area  and  brought  damage  to  rail  yards  in 
several  towns.  Namur  and  Charleroi,  two  of  the  major  Belgian  targets, 
received  punishment  from  the  Ninth  Air  Force  on  10  April  when  148 
Marauders  dropped  184  tons  on  the  former  and  40  Marauders  and 
RAF  Mitchells  attacked  the  latter.  On  the  following  day  193  Maraud- 
ers went  back  to  Charleroi  and  discharged  347  x 1,000-pound  bombs 
and  1,106  x 250-pound  bombs  in  the  general  area  of  the  rail  center  with 
results  ranging  from  poor  to  good.  By  this  time  the  Ninth  Air  Force 
had  worked  out  very  satisfactory  methods  for  attacks  such  as  these. 
Usually,  four  or  five  groups  of  B-26’s  with  about  thirty-seven  aircraft 
per  group  would  bomb  a single  rail  center.  Instead  of  having  massive 
formations  drop  on  signal  from  a lead  airplane,  Brereton  ordered  that 
the  attacking  force  break  up  into  numerous  four-  or  six-plane  sections, 

U1 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


a measure  which  sharply  improved  accuracy  and  consequently  reduced 
the  danger  to  civilians.  Furthermore,  the  Thunderbolts,  which  ordinar- 
ily accompanied  the  heavy  bombers,  performed  so  successfully  in 
strafing  and  dive-bombing  rail  targets  that  Leigh-Mallory  directed  the 
use  of  as  many  RAF  Spitfires  as  possible  for  escort  in  order  to  release 
AAF  fighters  for  the  transportation  attacks.00 

By  the  middle  of  April  the  Second  TAF  was  regularly  sending  out 
Typhoons  and  Mosquitoes  to  bomb  and  shoot  up  transportation  targets 
near  the  coast,  and  Bomber  Command  heavies  were  proving  that  ex- 
pertly led  night  formations  bombing  from  low  altitudes  could  approxi- 
mate the  operations  of  daylight  attackers  in  effectiveness.61  Scrutiniz- 
ing the  estimates  of  casualties  and  concluding  they  were  not  too  large, 
Churchill  lifted  the  ban  on  most  of  the  occupied  cities  toward  the  end 
of  April  except  for  such  heavily  populated  areas  as  Paris,  Le  Bourget, 
Nancy,  and  a few  others,  which  action  left  Tedder  free  to  assign  most 
of  the  rail  center  targets  to  the  air  forces.62  To  the  Eighth  Air  Force 
went  twenty-three  targets  in  Belgium,  northeastern  France,  and  west- 
ern Germany.  The  Fifteenth  Air  Force  received  twenty-two  targets  in 
southern  France  and  central  Germany.  RAF  Bomber  Command’s  com- 
mitment comprised  twenty-seven  targets  (later  thirty-nine)  in  north- 
western France,  the  Paris  area,  and  Belgium.  Targets  assigned  to  the 
AEAF  numbered  about  thirty  (finally  eighteen),  scattered  about  in 
Belgium  and  northern  France.  The  system  for  classifying  damage  was 
to  be:  A,  when  nothing  more  was  needed  than  occasional  dive  bombing 
to  keep  the  rail  center  in  disrepair;  B,  where  damage  was  great  enough 
to  allow  suspension  of  all  but  precision  attacks;  and  C,  for  rail  centers 
which  were  only  slightly  affected  and  where  all  kinds  of  attacks  were 
permissible.63 

The  Ninth  Air  Force  achieved  excellent  results  on  19  April  when 
182  B-26’s  and  more  than  50  fighters  attacked  Malines,  Namur,  and 
Hasselt.  On  20  April,  P-47’s  dive-bombed  Mantes,  west  of  Paris,  and 
Creil.  Fighters  of  the  Ninth,  which  now  included  considerable  num- 
bers of  Mustangs  as  well  as  Thunderbolts,  prosecuted  the  campaign 
with  conspicuous  success  on  the  following  three  days,  attacking  Na- 
mur, Haine-St.  Pierre,  Hasselt,  Montignies-sur-Sambre,  Malines,  and 
St.  Ghislain.  In  all,  twenty-two  targets  received  fighter-bomber  visita- 
tions in  the  last  two  weeks  of  April.64  Perhaps  the  most  spectacular 
operation  occurred  on  23  April,  after  Eighth  Air  Force  fighter  pilots 
returning  from  escort  missions  over  the  Reich  reported  an  abnormally 

G2 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


large  concentration  of  rolling  stock  at  Namur.  More  than  ioo  Ninth 
Air  Force  Mustangs  and  Thunderbolts  hurried  to  the  city  and  inflicted 
serious  damage  on  the  railway  installations.  And  there  were  other 
fighter-bomber  successes  against  Louvain,  Mantes,  Monceau-sur-Sam- 
bre,  and  various  other  targets,  most  of  which  had  been  attacked  earlier 
by  bombers.  The  B-26’s  of  the  Ninth  were  also  active,  although  bad 
weather  kept  them  from  operating  on  several  days.  On  27  April,  100 
Marauders  dropped  about  400  bombs,  most  of  them  of  the  1,000-pound 
size,  on  Cambrai,  and  on  30  April,  143  mediums  attacked  Bethune  and 
Somain.  The  A-20  light  bomber  entered  the  Ninth’s  campaign  on  27 
April,  when  7 1 of  them  bombed  Arras;  on  the  30th,  the  same  number 
attacked  Busigny.  Eighth  Air  Force  heavies  conducted  their  first  mis- 
sions under  the  transportation  program  on  27  April,  dropping  342  tons 
on  Blainville  and  230  tons  on  Chalons-sur-Marne,  with  good  results  in 
both  cases.65  As  for  the  RAF,  its  Second  TAF  was  out  almost  every  day 
attacking  marshalling  yards  near  the  Channel,  and  Bomber  Command 
was  piling  up  a notable  series  of  victories  in  wiping  out  rail  centers  dur- 
ing heavy  night  attacks. 

By  the  end  of  April  it  was  evident  that  enormous  damage  was  being 
done.  Some  33,000  tons  had  fallen  on  the  rail  centers,  and  at  least  twelve 
important  targets  were  already  in  Category  A.08  The  Germans,  whose 
antiaircraft  defenses  had  been  very  weak,  were  beginning  to  concen- 
trate more  guns  around  the  rail  centers;  as  yet  they  had  not  contested 
the  Allied  operations  with  their  fighters.  The  enemy  was  also  display- 
ing much  resourcefulness  in  repairing  the  bombed  centers,  in  some 
cases  getting  through-traffic  re-established  within  a few  hours  after  the 
bombings.  It  was  becoming  obvious  that  the  Allies  would  have  to  re- 
attack frequently,  far  more  than  they  had  counted  on,  and  that  their 
operations  would  have  to  be  planned  in  a most  scientific  manner  if  the 
rail  centers  were  to  be  kept  out  of  use.  Moreover,  it  was  very  difficult 
to  assess  the  real  effectiveness  of  the  bombings.  With  a wealth  of  intel- 
ligence data  coming  in  from  occupied  Europe  and  by  means  of  photo- 
graphic reconnaissance,  the  Allies  might  gauge  the  train  count  of  cer- 
tain centers  and  learn  the  approximate  number  of  locomotives  and  cars 
destroyed,  the  extent  of  structural  damage  to  facilities,  and  the  length 
of  time  it  took  the  Germans  to  repair  main  lines.  But  was  physical 
damage  a sound  criterion  for  judging  enemy  military  movements? 
From  evidence  at  hand  by  the  last  of  April  it  seemed  that  only  French 
and  Belgian  traffic  was  being  knocked  off  the  rails.67  The  Germans 


153 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


were  still  moving  their  troop  and  supply  trains,  which  naturally  en- 
joyed priority,  without  serious  delay.  But  it  was  well  understood  that 
the  transportation  plan  was  a long-term  program,  and  less  than  half  the 
pre-D-day  tonnage  of  bombs  had  been  dropped.  Leigh-Mallory  issued 
a paper  on  30  April  urging  the  air  forces  to  step  up  their  prosecution  of 
the  campaign  and  calling  in  particular  upon  the  Eighth  Air  Force  to 
begin  its  full  participation.68 

During  May  1944,  the  month  of  the  heaviest  pre-invasion  bombing, 
transportation  attacks  were  greatly  intensified  by  all  air  forces  and 
cunningly  focused  on  routes  which  led  into  Normandy  while  seeming- 
ly concentrated  on  those  serving  other  areas.  On  1 May,  eleven  differ- 
ent B-26  forces  of  the  Ninth  attacked  Mantes,  Montignies-sur-Sam- 
bre,  Douai,  Monceaux,  and  Valenciennes.  Simultaneously,  thirty-seven 
Bostons  bombed  Charleroi,  and  Thunderbolts  dive-bombed  Haine-St. 
Pierre,  St.  Ghislain,  Amiens,  Arras,  and  Valenciennes.  On  the  same  day 
the  Eighth  Air  Force  carried  out  its  first  major  mission  against  rail  cen- 
ters, dispatching  328  heavy  bombers  and  16  groups  of  fighters  to  drop 
more  than  1,000  tons  on  the  Troyes,  Reims,  Brussels,  Liege,  Sarre- 
guemines,  and  Metz  marshalling  yards.  Ninth  Air  Force  fighters  went 
out  on  2 May  in  ten  different  forces  of  about  twenty-eight  aircraft  each 
to  drop  250-  and  500-pound  bombs  on  Le  Mans,  Aulnoye,  Tergnier, 
Hasselt,  Mantes,  Tourcoing,  Charleroi,  Somain,  and  Peronne  while  six 
light  and  medium  bomber  forces  attacked  Valenciennes,  Busigny,  and 
Blanc-Misseron.  Several  days  of  bad  weather  interrupted  the  program 
until  7 May.  Between  that  day  and  the  1 1 th  the  Ninth  bombed  Calais, 
Aerschot,  Mons,  Creil,  Tournai,  Mezieres,  Arras,  Bethune,  Cambrai, 
and  smaller  centers.  Fighter-bombers  usually  carried  out  precision  at- 
tacks after  the  B-2  6’s  and  A-2o’s  had  damaged  the  main  parts  of  the 
target  areas.  On  11  May,  Eighth  Air  Force  B-i7’s  dropped  600  tons 
on  Saarbriicken,  Luxembourg,  Ehrang,  Konz-Karthaus,  Bettemburg, 
Thionville,  and  Volklingen  while  B-24’s  bombed  Mulhouse,  Belfort, 
Fpinal,  and  Chaumont  with  440  tons.69  And  the  British  air  forces  were 
equally  active.  Bomber  Command  proved  so  successful,  in  fact,  that  it 
was  assigned  twelve  targets  originally  allotted  to  the  tactical  air  forces. 

Soon  after  the  middle  of  May  the  pre-D-day  rail  center  program  was 
close  to  completion  except  for  the  USSTAF  contribution.  Occasional 
reattacks  were  of  course  necessary,  and  fighters  conducted  regular  sur- 
veillance over  the  bombed  centers  for  evidence  of  activity.  But  the 
Eighth  and  Fifteenth  Air  Forces  still  had  the  bulk  of  their  tonnage  to 

1 54 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


deliver.  On  23  May,  six  combat  wings  of  Eighth  Air  Force  Fortresses 
attacked  Epinal,  Metz,  Saarbriicken,  Bayon,  Chaumont,  and  £tampes. 
Two  days  later  fourteen  combat  wings  dropped  heavy  tonnages  on 
Mulhouse,  Belfort,  Tonnerre,  Sarreguemines,  Thionville,  Metz,  Blain- 
ville,  Liege,  Brussels,  Charleroi,  and  Alost.  On  27  May,  Ludwigshafen, 
Mannheim,  Karlsruhe,  Strasbourg,  Konz-Karthaus,  Neunkirchen,  and 
Saarbriicken  were  successfully  bombed,  this  mission  proving  to  be  the 
only  one  in  the  transportation  program  in  which  the  enemy’s  fighters 
put  up  significant  resistance  to  American  bombers,  nine  of  which  were 
shot  down  on  this  occasion.  On  30  May  the  Eighth  attacked  Troyes, 
Reims,  and  Brussels,  and  on  4 June  it  bombed  various  transportation 
targets  in  the  suburbs  of  Paris.  Of  its  twenty-three  allotted  targets,  the 
Eighth  Air  Force  placed  fifteen  in  Category  A and  eight  in  B.  Its  oper- 
ations during  the  last  of  May  had  been  of  devastating  effect  and 
brought  its  total  for  rail  center  bombings  up  to  13,000  tons.70 

The  Fifteenth  Air  Force  had  originally  been  assigned  twenty- two 
rail  centers  in  central  Germany  and  southern  France.  The  German  tar- 
gets were  subsequently  dropped  as  unnecessary  for  OVERLORD, 
and  the  Fifteenth  actually  devoted  most  of  its  railway  bombings  to  tar- 
gets in  Italy  and  the  Balkans.  USSTAF  having  on  24  May  1944  issued 
the  necessary  orders,  600  of  the  Fifteenth’s  heavy  bombers  from  25  to 
27  May  ranged  over  southern  France  almost  without  interference, 
dropping  more  than  3,000  tons  on  fourteen  different  targets.  St.- 
£tienne,  Nice,  Lyon,  Chambery,  Grenoble,  Avignon,  Marseille,  and 
Nimes  were  the  chief  objectives,  and  reports  of  damage  to  railway 
installations  in  those  localities  were  highly  satisfactory,  five  falling  in 
Category  A.71 

By  D-day  Leigh-Mallory’s  headquarters  estimated  that  fifty-one  of 
the  eighty  rail  centers  in  the  north  were  in  Category  A,  of  which 
twenty-two  were  credited  to  RAF  Bomber  Command,  fourteen  to  the 
AEAF,  and  fifteen  to  the  Eighth  Air  Force.  By  less  rigid  standards  of 
measurement,  the  damage  was  far  more  extensive,  for  practically  all 
of  the  targets  were  judged  unusable  for  the  enemy’s  purposes.  The  total 
tonnage  of  bombs  amounted  to  more  than  71,000,  46,000  of  which 
were  dropped  by  Bomber  Command  alone.  Losses  to  attacking  aircraft 
had  been  very  light,  especially  where  the  daylight  bombers  and  the 
fighters  were  concerned.  Accuracy  had  been  high,  in  some  cases  out- 
standingly so.72  French  and  Belgian  casualties  had  been  far  below  the 
estimates  of  both  pessimists  and  optimists,  and  the  reaction  of  the  occu- 


155 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

pied  populations  to  the  bombings,  while  it  gave  the  Allies  some  uncom- 
fortable moments,  was  not  alarming.  But  in  the  face  of  these  achieve- 
ments, by  19  May  1944  railway  traffic  in  the  west  had  declined  by  less 
than  one-third— just  to  the  point  that  transportation  plan  advocates  had 
earlier  predicted  would  begin  to  interfere  with  military  transportation. 
Doubtless,  the  Germans  had  been  hurt  and  their  traffic  would  fall  at 
an  increasing  rate  before  the  Normandy  landings.  But  SHAEF  G-2 
reported  on  20  May  that  the  rail  center  bombings  were  not  yet  produc- 
ing the  effects  expected.73 

To  supplement  the  transportation  plan,  Leigh-Mallory  authorized 
wide-scale  fighter  sweeps  against  moving  trains  on  20  May,  when  civil- 
ian passenger  traffic  was  believed  to  have  ceased.74  For  some  time  fight- 
ers had  been  shooting  up  trains,  to  the  nervousness  of  USSTAF  head- 
quarters, where  it  was  feared  that  civilians  were  being  killed  indiscrimi- 
nately.75 Now  the  practice  would  be  carried  on  openly  and  on  a large 
scale.  In  the  next  two  weeks  fighters  damaged  about  475  locomotives 
and  cut  railway  lines  at  150  different  points.  The  most  sensational  at- 
tacks were  the  CHATTANOOGA  CHOO-CHOO  missions,  the  first 
of  which  took  place  on  21  May  when  763  AEAF  fighters  swept  over 
the  northern  half  of  France  and  500  Eighth  Air  Force  fighters  ranged 
over  Germany  firing  and  bombing  at  trains.76  Another  occurred  on  25 
May  when  three  Ninth  Air  Force  fighter  groups  operated  over  the 
Rhineland  and  northern  France  and  more  than  600  Eighth  Air  Force 
fighters  shot  up  trains  in  Belgium  and  France.  Other  outstanding 
CHATTANOOGA  missions  were  carried  out  by  571  Eighth  Air 
Force  fighters  in  eastern  Germany  and  Poland  on  29  May  and  by  the 
Ninth  Air  Force  in  France  on  2,  3,  and  4 June.77  These  operations  fur- 
nished good  practice  for  fighter  pilots  in  attacking  ground  targets,  a 
skill  they  were  to  develop  to  a high  degree  after  the  invasion,  and  they 
brought  about  enormous  disruption  to  enemy  traffic  and  ruin  to  equip- 
ment while  producing  important  psychological  effects  on  railroad 
personnel.  French  train  crews  deserted  in  large  numbers,  especially 
after  fighters  began  to  drop  belly  tanks  on  stalled  trains  and  to  set  them 
afire  by  strafing.  This  situation  caused  the  Germans  to  employ  crews 
of  their  own  nationality  on  the  more  hazardous  runs,  and  after  26  May 
railway  operations  in  daylight  were  sharply  reduced  even  in  cases 
where  the  lines  were  unbroken.78 

Probably  the  decisive  phase  of  the  long  transportation  program  was 
the  brilliantly  successful  interdiction  campaign  against  bridges.  For 

156 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


months  before  the  Normandy  landings  much  doubt  prevailed  in  mili- 
tary circles  that  enough  bridges  could  be  destroyed  in  time  to  benefit 
OVERLORD.  River  crossings,  especially  those  of  steel  construction, 
were  difficult  to  hit  from  the  air,  and  the  enemy  could  be  counted  on  to 
discourage  precision  bombing  by  arraying  antiaircraft  guns  around 
them.  Moreover,  the  amount  of  bomb  tonnage  necessary  to  finish  off 
a bridge  was  thought  to  be  high,  almost  prohibitive.  But  during  the 
spring  of  1944  General  Spaatz  began  to  urge  that  experimental  attacks 
be  carried  out  on  bridges,  for  it  was  apparent  that  success  in  this  matter 
would  greatly  contribute  to  the  transportation  campaign.  General 
Brereton  likewise  pressed  for  efforts  to  remove  bridges  leading  toward 
or  into  the  invasion  area.  Substantiation  for  the  views  of  these  air  gen- 
erals came  out  of  Italy,  where  operation  STRANGLE  showed  not 
only  that  bridge-breaking  was  feasible  but  that  it  was  the  most  effective 
way  to  block  the  enemy’s  movements.  General  Eaker  made  known  the 
successes  of  his  air  forces  in  sealing  off  part  of  the  Italian  peninsula  by 
means  of  bridge  destruction,*  and  General  Anderson  brought  back 
from  a visit  to  Italy  enthusiastic  accounts  of  the  success  of 
STRANGLE.79  Pressure  for  a bridge  campaign  grew  when  it  was  real- 
ized that  an  experimental  attack  carried  out  by  RAF  Typhoons  on  21 
April  1944  on  several  French  and  Belgian  bridges  had  rendered  the 
crossings  unusable  even  if  it  had  failed  to  destroy  them.80  Soon  after- 
ward, on  3 May,  Montgomery’s  headquarters  officially  requested  the 
air  forces  to  take  out  several  bridges  over  which  the  enemy  might  move 
reinforcements  into  Normandy,  and  his  representative  subsequently 
expressed  to  Leigh-Mallory  the  view  that  bridge  destruction  would  be 
more  decisive  than  “pin-pricking  on  rail  communications.”81  Still  there 
was  hesitation.  The  British  railway  expert,  E.  D.  Brant,  estimated  that 
1,200  tons  would  have  to  be  expended  on  each  of  the  Seine  bridges,  a 
costly  undertaking  which  could  hardly  be  afforded  in  view  of  other 
pre-invasion  commitments.  Leigh-Mallory  suggested  that  Spaatz’s 
heavy  bombers  attempt  the  campaign.  But  Spaatz  believed  that  too 
much  bomb  tonnage  would  be  required,  since  the  heavies  would  have 
to  attack  from  such  high  altitudes,  and  that  smaller  aircraft,  as  experi- 
ence in  Italy  indicated,  were  better  suited  for  the  task.  After  discussing 
the  matter  thoroughly  on  6 May,  Leigh-Mallory  finally  turned  to  other 
matters,  remarking  that  he  did  not  care  to  see  a waste  of  effort  at  that 
time.82 

* See  below,  pp.  373-84. 


1 57 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

On  7 May  all  serious  doubts  were  swept  away  by  a notable  Ninth  Air 
Force  operation.  Eight  P~47’s  dropped  two  1,000-pound  bombs  apiece 
on  a 650-foot  steel  railway  crossing  over  the  Seine  near  Vernon  and 
demolished  it.83  This  attack,  which  seems  to  have  been  made  on  Brere- 
ton’s  initiative,84  was  one  of  four  executed  that  day  by  P-47’s  and 
B-26’s.  While  the  Vernon  operation  was  the  most  clearly  successful 
demonstration,  bridges  at  Oissel,  Orival,  and  Mantes-Gassicourt  were 
badly  damaged  and  soon  put  out  of  use.85  Leigh-Mallory,  having  thus 
been  convinced  that  the  tactical  air  forces  could  do  the  job,86  on  10 
May  directed  his  forces  to  begin  the  destruction  of  bridges  over  the 
Albert  Canal  and  the  Meuse  River,  an  enterprise  that  would  suggest 
Allied  concern  with  the  Calais  region  but  would  nevertheless  help  cut 
off  Normandy.  SHAEF,  alarmed  by  a report  of  its  G-2  that  the  rail 
center  bombings  were  causing  only  “some  slight  delay”  in  enemy  rail 
movements,  soon  prepared  an  extensive  interdiction  program  for  the 
air  forces  which  called  for  cutting  all  bridges  up  the  Seine  to  Mantes 
and  up  the  Loire  to  Blois  and  at  critical  points  in  the  so-called  Paris- 
Orleans  gap  stretching  between  the  two  rivers.87  Because  of  the  ever 
present  and  by  now  paramount  consideration  of  security,  the  Loire 
bridges  would  have  to  wait  until  D-day.  In  order  to  achieve  maximum 
surprise  against  the  Seine  bridges,  it  was  decided  that  the  air  forces 
should  withhold  their  attacks  there  until  shortly  before  the  invasion, 
and  then  lay  on  a series  of  staggering  blows  in  rapid  succession.  Since 
routes  over  the  Seine  led  into  the  Pas-de-Calais  as  well  as  Normandy, 
it  was  not  likely  that  the  Germans  would  guess  from  these  bombings 
where  the  Allies  were  going  to  land. 

Medium  bombers  and  fighter-bombers  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force  con- 
ducted several  good  attacks  on  Belgian  bridges  between  1 1 and  26  May, 
breaking  those  at  Herentals,  Liege,  and  Hasselt  and  severely  damaging 
others.  On  24  May  the  ban  on  the  Seine  bridges  was  lifted,  and  on  the 
26th  they  became  first  priority  for  the  AEAF.88  Accordingly,  B-26’s 
and  P-47’s  began  a spectacular  campaign  of  low-level  attacks,  striking 
Le  Manoir  and  Poissy  on  26  May,  Juvisy,  Le  Manoir,  Maisons-Lafitte, 
and  Le  Mesnil  Ande  on  27  May,  and  Mantes,  Orival,  Rouen,  and 
Maisons-Lafitte  on  28  May.  Conflans,  Orival,  Juvisy,  and  Athis  caught 
heavy  attacks  on  29  May,  while  Mantes,  Rouen,  Meulan,  Bennecourt, 
and  Conflans  were  further  damaged  or  broken  on  30  May,  along  with 
several  highway  crossings.89  In  these  operations  it  became  clear  that  the 

158 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


11  z 6 was  the  choice  weapon,’’"  although  RAF  and  Ninth  Air  Force 
fighters  were  frequently  employed  to  finish  off  damaged  bridges  and 
to  block  tunnels.  The  combination  of  B-2  6’s  dropping  2,000-pound 
bombs,  P-47’s  diving  with  500-pounders,  and  Typhoons  firing  rocket 
projectiles  proved  devastating.  River  crossings  over  the  Seine  were 
falling  rapidly  to  Allied  air  power,  and  despite  superhuman  efforts 
German  reconstruction  was  not  keeping  pace  with  Allied  damage. 

Even  so,  by  r June  1944  the  enemy’s  transportation  system  had  still 
not  reached  the  final  state  of  collapse  desired  by  the  Allies,  although 
the  45,000  tons  originally  allotted  for  bombing  rail  centers  had  been 
greatly  exceeded.  The  Germans  were  repairing  their  bombed  marshal- 
ling yards  and  railroad  tracks  with  admirable  efficiency,  and  they  were 
fairly  successful  in  redistributing  their  traffic  flow  so  as  to  avoid  the 
worst-damaged  points.91  It  seemed  that  essential  military  movements 
were  still  taking  place  although  much  important  work,  such  as  the 
completion  of  the  Atlantic  Wall,  had  to  cease  because  of  transportation 
difficulties.92  North  of  the  Seine  was  Field  Marshal  General  Gerd  von 
Rundstedt’s  large  Fifteenth  Army,  poised  to  meet  an  expected  assault 
on  Calais.  Unless  the  line  of  interdiction  became  perfect,  he  would 
probably  be  able  to  shift  much  of  his  strength  into  Normandy  after 
D-day.  Thus,  the  best  hope  of  the  Allies  to  seal  off  the  invasion  area  was 
to  complete  the  destruction  of  all  twelve  railway  and  fourteen  high- 
way bridges  over  the  Seine. 

Last-minute  attacks  on  the  Seine  bridges  produced  the  maximum  re- 
sults: the  impassibility  of  all  crossings  below  Paris.  Marauders,  Thun- 
derbolts, Lightnings,  and  Typhoons  attacked  every  day  and  night, 
bombing  and  rebombing  until  every  bridge  was  unusable.  The  Ger- 
mans, of  course,  made  desperate  attempts  to  repair  their  shattered 
bridges,  but  strafing  made  it  difficult  and  demoralizing  work,  and  even 
when  reconstruction  was  successful,  the  Allies  would  promptly  bomb 
again.  Strafing  also  interfered  with  the  enemy’s  efforts  to  unload  freight 
from  trains  at  the  broken  crossings  for  ferrying  across  the  Seine  to 
trains  on  the  other  side,  and  the  Allies  could  strand  the  trains  by  cut- 
ting lines  or  destroying  locomotives.  The  line  of  interdiction  along  the 
Seine  was  a fact  by  D-day.  And  the  total  tonnage  expended  in  the 
railway  bridge  campaign  amounted  to  only  4,400,  averaging  per  bridge 
about  one-fifth  the  weight  originally  expected.  Clearly,  the  Ninth  Air 
Force  had  carried  off  most  of  the  honors  for  this  phase  of  the  transpor- 
tation plan.93 


159 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


The  battle  against  enemy  transportation  was  a splendid  success  on 
the  eve  of  D-day.  It  “opened  the  door  for  the  invasion,”  as  Spaatz  later 
informed  Arnold.94  British-American  aircraft  had  dropped  a total  of 
76,200  tons  (on  rail  centers  7 1,000,  bridges  4,400,  and  open  lines  800) 
and  would  aim  78,000  tons  more  at  transportation  targets  before  France 
was  free  of  the  German.  Railway  traffic  in  France  fell  off  dramatically 
between  19  May— when  the  Allies  were  somewhat  discouraged  about 
the  transportation  bombings— and  9 June  1944,  the  index  dropping 
from  69  to  38  (based  on  100  for  January  and  February  1944).  By  mid- 
July  the  index  would  be  only  23,  and  traffic  in  northern  France  would 
be  practically  at  a standstill.95  Von  Rundstedt  had  been  unable  to  move 
effective  reinforcements  into  the  Seine-Loire  triangle  at  the  time  of  the 
invasion,  and  his  forces  had  been  committed  piecemeal  and  could  not 
even  be  deployed  as  units.96  Thus  the  Allies  had  won  their  premier 
objective  in  the  transportation  campaign:  they  were  able  to  build  up 
their  forces  in  Normandy  from  across  the  Channel  faster  than  the  Ger- 
mans could  reinforce  theirs  from  adjacent  areas  in  France. 

Whether  the  rail  center  attacks— subject  of  a long  controversy 
among  invasion  planners  in  early  1944— had  been  necessary  or  not  in 
accomplishing  the  wreckage  of  Germany’s  transportation  system  con- 
tinued to  be  a subject  of  some  debate.  Even  the  German  commanders 
held  varying  opinions,  and  captured  enemy  records  can  be  interpreted 
to  support  several  points  of  view.  Von  Rundstedt  later  told  interro- 
gators that  strategic  bombing  had  little  or  no  effect  on  the  French  rail- 
way systems  until  late  in  July  1944.  The  German  officer  who  was  in 
charge  of  military  transport  on  railways  in  the  west  stressed  the  cata- 
strophic effects  of  Allied  interdiction,  especially  bridge-breaking.97 
Other  enemy  evidence  indicated  that  the  attritional  bombings  of  the 
railway  repair  centers  and  marshalling  yards  were  decisive  in  stopping 
traffic.  The  fact  remained  that  the  Germans  suffered  indescribable  and 
often  ludicrous  difficulties  in  moving  their  troops  and  supplies,  whether 
in  reinforcement  or  evacuation.* 

Allied  opinion  about  the  different  aspects  of  the  transportation  cam- 
paign remained  consistent;  those  who  had  sponsored  the  rail  center 
bombings  in  the  first  place  generally  thought  they  had  been  right,  and 
the  champions  of  interdiction  continued  to  argue  their  side  of  the  case. 
The  evidence,  Germany’s  ruined  communications,  lent  itself  to  a vari- 
ety of  interpretation.  In  November  1944,  shortly  before  he  lost  his  life 

* See  below,  pp.  219-27. 

160 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


on  a flight  to  India,  Leigh-Mallory  presented  to  Eisenhower  a “des- 
patch” summarizing  the  AEAF’s  contributions.  It  is  not  surprising  that 
he  hailed  the  rail  center  program  as  fully  realized  and  claimed  that  his 
beliefs  had  been  confirmed.98  Solly  Zuckerman  prepared  two  studies 
after  the  invasion  in  which  statistics  seemed  to  prove  the  higher  impor- 
tance of  attrition  as  compared  to  interdiction.99  General  Brereton  and 
Air  Marshal  Harris,  both  of  whom  had  favored  the  rail  center  cam- 
paign, looked  back  upon  it  after  the  war  as  very  effective  in  bringing 
about  the  results  they  had  intended.  Air  Marshal  Tedder  said  the  rail 
center  bombings  had  been  the  main  factor  in  producing  the  collapse  of 
German  communications,  an  achievement  which  he  said  had  come 
about  more  rapidly  and  more  completely  than  he  had  anticipated.100 
SHAEF  G-2  reversed  its  position  of  May  1944  to  conclude  in  Novem- 
ber that  attrition  had  proved  more  effective  in  France  before  D-day 
than  interdiction.101  And  there  was  scattered  support  from  other 
analyses  to  justify  the  rail  center  bombings.  Perhaps  most  telling  of  all 
was  the  decision  of  the  Allies  to  continue  bombing  rail  centers,  which 
they  did  until  the  end  of  the  war,  though  not  without  differences  over 
the  probable  effectiveness  of  such  attacks  and  doubts  about  results. 

On  the  other  hand,  SHAEF  G-2  in  May  and  June  1944  assessed  the 
attrition  campaign  as  a severe  disappointment,  if  not  an  alarming  fail- 
ure.102 As  late  as  D plus  1 the  Germans  seemed  to  possess  several  times 
the  railway  resources  they  needed,  a fact  which,  if  true,  refuted  the 
champions  of  attrition.  Two  Ninth  Air  Force  studies  of  July  1944 
judged  the  attrition  program  as  having  almost  no  effect  in  isolating 
Normandy,  while  interdiction  was  considered  decisive.103  General 
Spaatz  and  most  USSTAF  officers  continued  to  look  upon  the  rail  cen- 
ter bombings  as  much  less  important  than  bridge-breaking  and  line- 
cutting, and  General  Arnold  seems  to  have  agreed.104  The  U.S.  Em- 
bassy’s railway  experts  likewise  remained  consistent  by  deciding  a few 
months  after  OVERLORD  that  interdiction  had  been  the  decisive 
phase  of  the  transportation  campaign.  A comprehensive  study  of  the 
U.S.  Strategic  Bombing  Survey  compiled  under  the  direction  of  Gen. 
Omar  N.  Bradley  soon  after  V-E  Day  drew  a similar  conclusion.105 
Also,  the  president  of  the  French  railway  system  said  rail  center  attacks 
were  less  significant  than  those  on  bridges.106  Finally,  an  A AF  evalua- 
tion board  report  based  largely  on  French  railway  records  concluded 
after  a laborious  examination  of  evidence  and  balancing  of  factors: 
“The  pre-D-day  attacks  against  French  rail  centers  were  not  necessary, 

161 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


and  the  70,000  tons  involved  could  have  been  devoted  to  alternative 
targets.”107 

Neutralization  of  German  Air  Bases 

From  the  first,  OVERLORD  planners  emphasized  the  need  to  neu- 
tralize airfields  in  western  Europe  from  which  the  German  Air  Force 
might  operate  against  the  Allied  invaders.  The  minimum  objective  was 
to  drive  the  enemy’s  fighter  squadrons  back  to  bases  in  the  east  so  that 
they  would  enjoy  no  advantage  over  Allied  fighters  which  flew  out  of 
England.  But  the  more  the  Allies  could  widen  their  air  supremacy  over 
the  enemy  the  better.  The  POINTBLANK  campaign  against  Ger- 
man aircraft  production  and  the  GAF  itself  reached  a successful  climax 
early  in  1944.  This  victory  of  the  Allied  air  forces  signified  that  the 
enemy  would  not  be  able  to  prevent  the  invasion  by  air  power,  as 
otherwise  he  might  have.  Crippled  as  his  air  force  was,  however,  he 
still  possessed  one.  By  sheltering  it  and  expending  it  frugally  against 
the  continuous  provocation  of  Allied  bomber  fleets  over  the  Reich,  he 
might  be  able  to  throw  an  estimated  900  aircraft,  including  450  bomb- 
ers,* against  OVERLORD  at  the  critical  time  and  with  telling  effect.108 

Allied  apprehension  as  to  the  use  that  might  be  made  of  such  a force 
finds  confirmation  in  German  plans.  In  the  spring  of  1944  Hitler  him- 
self ordered  the  “Baby  Blitz”  on  England  in  the  hope  of  spoiling  Allied 
invasion  preparations.109  But  the  Germans  did  not  have  enough  bomb- 
ers to  do  any  serious  damage  in  these  night  attacks  on  London  and  the 
southern  ports,  especially  in  the  face  of  good  defenses  and  counter- 
attacks on  their  bases.110  But  many  of  the  Luftwaffe’s  units  could  be 
shifted  to  France  once  the  invasion  began— Goering  later  claimed  that 
he  was  prepared  to  have  this  done,  that  his  organization  had  even 
guessed  right  about  the  landing  site.111  Since  von  Rundstedt  was  re- 
signed to  the  fact  that  the  Luftwaffe  could  not  protect  his  communica- 
tions and  installations,  he  decided  that  this  force  would  be  used  alto- 

* If  a captured  file  of  the  German  high  command  known  as  Auswertung  der  Einsat/- 
bereitsch  der  fliegenden  Verb,  vom  i August  1943  bis  November  1944  is  correct,  the 
average  German  air  strength  in  May  1944  for  all  fronts  stood  as  follows: 


Called  for 

In  Existence 

In  a State  of 
Readiness 

(Soil) 

(1st) 

(Einsatzbereit) 

Fighters  

2,680 

E729 

«.  >95 

Night  fighters 

i,°52 

644 

434 

Twin-engine  fighters  

385 

3.8 

153 

Eight  bombers  (Schlacht)  . . . 

937 

869 

639 

Bombers  (Kampf)  

1,8:4 

«»259 

801 

162 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


gether  for  offensive  operations  to  repel  the  invaders.113  Fighters  might 
be  withdrawn  from  every  front  and  the  Reich  itself  in  order  to  attack 
the  OVERLORD  forces.113  From  bases  deep  in  France  German  bomb 
ers  could  contribute  their  power  to  the  counterassault  along  with  the 
robot  bombs  that  were  about  ready  to  function.  German  plans  pre- 
supposed the  availability  of  adequate  air  bases  in  France. 

There  were  approximately  ioo  airfields  within  350  miles  of  the 
Normandy  shore  from  which  the  German  Air  Force  could  operate. 
Some  of  these  bases  were  well  built  up  as  a result  of  several  years  of  use 
by,  in  turn,  French  commercial  airlines,  the  RAF,  and  the  Luftwaffe. 
In  the  spring  of  1944  most  of  the  air  bases  were  empty  except  for  a few 
antishipping  and  reconnaissance  squadrons  which  shifted  about  uneasi- 
ly from  one  field  to  another  depending  on  Allied  activities.  But  the 
bases  existed  and  could  easily  be  used  again.  Thus  the  Allies  felt  it  neces- 
sary to  damage  all  of  them.  Yet  airfield  attacks  were  likely  to  be  unpro- 
ductive under  these  circumstances.  The  enemy  could  fly  his  airplanes 
away  before  the  bombings;  runways  and  landing  areas  thoroughly  post- 
holed  in  the  morning  could  be  filled  by  late  afternoon;  and  damage  to 
hangars,  repair  facilities,  and  gasoline  dumps  would  not  be  permanently 
crippling  in  effect.  American  experiences  in  the  Pacific  war  had  demon- 
strated how  fighters  could  operate  from  ruined  airfields  or  even  flat 
stretches  of  ground  with  scanty  supplies  of  fuel,  ammunition,  and  spare 
parts  near  by.  Thus  the  problem  of  the  Allied  air  forces  was  to  inflict 
severe  damage  on  nearly  every  usable  air  installation  in  France,  and 
to  do  it  so  near  D-day  that  there  would  not  be  time  for  the  enemy  to 
remedy  the  situation. 

The  master  plan  for  Allied  air  supremacy  depended  upon  three  main 
programs:  continued  policing  to  keep  the  Luftwaffe  in  its  reduced 
state;  heavy  bomber  missions  deep  into  Germany  just  before  and  soon 
after  the  invasion  to  discourage  the  Germans  from  removing  their 
fighters  to  France;  and  wholesale  attacks  on  airfields  in  France  during 
the  three  weeks  before  D-day.  If  the  bombing  of  air  bases  were  accu- 
rate enough  to  remove  vital  installations,  the  shortness  of  time  and  Ger- 
man difficulties  arising  from  the  transportation  chaos  would  compel 
the  Luftwaffe  to  abandon  any  plan  to  utilize  the  best-located  airfields. 
By  waiting  until  the  last  three  weeks  before  D-day  to  bomb  airfields 
around  Caen  there  would  be  less  danger  of  giving  away  the  invasion 
secret.  Even  so,  attacks  would  be  spread  out  in  such  a way  as  to  con- 
ceal Allied  concern  with  Normandy. 

163 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


During  April  the  tactical  air  forces  of  the  AEAF  conducted  enough 
attacks  on  airfields  outside  the  invasion  area  to  produce  some  strain  on 
the  Germans  and  to  gain  practice.  As  yet,  this  type  of  target  held  a low 
priority,  and  the  missions  were  often  carried  out  when  other  objectives 
could  not  be  bombed.  So  it  was  when  small  forces  of  B-26’s  of  the 
Ninth  Air  Force  made  nine  attacks  on  six  air  bases  during  April.  Most 
of  the  Ninth’s  attacks  were  fighter-bomber  missions,  however,  and 
during  the  month  twenty-eight  French  airfields  were  bombed.  Usually 
the  pilots  reported  moderate  success  in  damaging  airfield  installations, 
but  results  were  difficult  to  assess  and  only  on  three  occasions  did  pilots 
claim  they  had  destroyed  enemy  aircraft  on  the  ground.114  Meanwhile, 
the  Eighth  Air  Force  continued  to  attack  air  bases  in  France  as  part  of 
its  campaign  to  deplete  the  German  Air  Force.  During  the  last  week 
of  April,  Lightnings  and  Thunderbolts  strafed  and  bombed  various 
airfields  in  northern  France  while  B-i7’s,  operating  in  forces  number- 
ing about  ioo  bombers,  dropped  heavy  loads  of  bombs  on  airfields  at 
Metz,  Nancy,  Dijon,  Le  Culot,  Avord,  Lyon,  and  Clermont-Ferrand. 

By  the  beginning  of  May,  Leigh-Mallory  had  his  airfield  program 
prepared  and  in  the  hands  of  the  various  air  force  commanders.  Of  the 
airfields  and  usable  landing  grounds  in  an  arc  130  miles  around  Caen 
(designated  Area  I)  8 were  assigned  to  RAF  Bomber  Command,  12  to 
the  AEAF,  and  20  to  the  Eighth  Air  Force.  Area  II  extended  from  the 
130-mile  line  to  an  arc  350  miles  around  Caen,  reaching  into  Germany 
and  the  Netherlands,  where  59  airfields  were  to  be  bombed  by  the 
daylight  flying  heavies  of  the  Eighth  and  Fifteenth  Air  Forces.  The 
program  was  flexible.  Each  air  commander  decided  for  himself  when 
and  how  to  hit  the  airfields  on  the  basis  of  the  general  plans  and  current 
reports  on  target  conditions  issued  by  the  AEAF.115  Fortunately,  the 
air  bases  were  grouped  around  Paris  and  Lille  in  such  a fashion  that 
the  invasion  plans  were  unlikely  to  be  given  away  in  the  bombing  pat- 
tern if  all  were  bombed.  Still,  the  Allies  were  to  attack  the  airfields  in 
Normandy  on  a deliberately  lighter  scale  than  the  others.  The  only 
suspicious  airfield  from  this  standpoint  was  near  Brest,  which  naval 
commanders  insisted  be  bombed  in  order  to  prevent  the  German  Air 
Force  from  working  with  submarines  against  the  invasion  fleet.116 

On  1 1 May  the  campaign  against  airfields  was  begun  in  earnest  by 
the  Ninth  Air  Force,  which  was  to  drop  the  most  tonnage  of  all  air 
commands  in  the  critical  Area  I.  Thirty-seven  B-2  6’s  got  good  results 
at  Beaumont- le-Roger  and  eighteen  A- 20’s  were  successful  at  Cor- 

164 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


meilles-en-Vexin.  Several  other  forces  had  to  be  recalled  because  of 
bad  weather.  On  13  May,  forty-two  A-2o’s  bombed  Beauvais  airfield 
and  three  Marauder  groups  attacked  Beaumont-sur-Oise,  Chievres,  and 
Abbeville.  Eight  aircraft  were  damaged  by  flak  but  none  was  lost  in  the 
latter  operation,  a representative  mission  of  the  campaign  with  regard 
to  cost.  Weather  and  other  commitments  interfered  for  several  days, 
during  which  significant  attacks  were  carried  out  by  fighters  and  light 
bombers  on  only  three  airfields,  those  at  Creil,  Gael,  and  Chartres. 
Early  in  the  evening  of  19  May  more  than  200  P-47’s  bombed  airfields 
at  Beauvais,  Monchy,  Breton,  Abbeville,  and  Cambrai.  On  20  May, 
seven  groups  of  B-2  6’s  attacked  Denain,  Evreux,  Beaumont-sur-Oise, 
and  Cormeilles-en-Vexin  while  a group  of  A- 20’s  bombed  Montdidier. 
Two  groups  of  B-26’s  bombed  Abbeville  on  the  following  day  and 
Beaumont-le-Roger  on  22  May.  Also  on  22  May,  late  in  the  afternoon, 
two  B-26  groups  attacked  Beauvais  and  one  struck  Beaumont  while 
three  Boston  groups  were  bombing  Evreux  and  Cormeilles.  So  it  went 
during  the  middle  of  May.  The  Ninth  Air  Force  quickly  completed 
most  of  its  work  of  destruction.  By  D-day  it  had  assaulted  thirty-six 
airfields  between  Holland  and  Brittany.117  After  the  Marauders  and 
Bostons  inflicted  major  damage,  fighter-bombers  would  rake  over  the 
air  bases  with  strafing  and  dive-bombing  attacks. 

The  Eighth  Air  Force  had  continued  to  devote  marginal  bombing 
effort  to  the  Luftwaffe’s  bases,  but  large-scale  missions  of  9 and  23  May 
1944  marked  its  official  entrance  into  Leigh-Mallory’s  airfield  cam- 
paign. Laon,  Florennes,  Thionville,  St.-Dizier,  Juvincourt,  Orleans, 
Bourges,  and  Avord  received  the  first  blows  from  the  Eighth,  the  high- 
est tonnage  falling  on  the  Orleans  airfield.  More  than  400  heavy  bomb- 
ers attacked  airfields  in  the  cluster  around  Paris  on  24  May  with  gener- 
ally good  results.  Potential  Luftwaffe  bases  at  Belfort,  Nancy,  and 
Brussels  were  bombed  on  the  25th.118  The  Eighth  Air  Force  missions 
were  so  effective  that  few  repetitions  were  required,  although  Ninth 
Air  Force  and  RAF  fighter-bombers  worked  over  all  of  the  important 
airfields  for  good  measure.  By  the  end  of  May  the  Germans  still  showed 
no  signs  of  trying  to  move  their  air  units  into  France,  and  it  was  deemed 
safe  to  discontinue  or  reduce  the  attacks,  even  though  the  program  was 
not  completed.  The  Fifteenth  Air  Force  bombed  only  two  airfields  in 
the  south  of  France,  and  the  Eighth  and  Ninth,  except  for  last-minute 
bombings  in  early  June,  devoted  their  efforts  to  other  purposes. 

By  D-day  airfields  in  Area  I had  received  6,717  tons,  3,197  of  which 

165 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


were  delivered  by  the  Ninth  Air  Force,  2,638  by  the  Eighth,  and  the 
remaining  882  by  the  RAF.  In  some  respects  the  results  were  disap- 
pointing, for  many  vital  installations  remained  undamaged  and  only 
four  of  the  thirty-two  targets  in  Area  I were  in  Category  A,  with  de- 
struction so  complete  that  no  further  attacks  were  considered  neces- 
sary. German  aircraft  were  still  operating  out  of  some  of  the  bombed 
airfields,  although  they  were  mere  fugitives  which  had  to  take  to  the 
air  for  safety  every  time  an  Allied  air  fleet  approached.  But  the  princi- 
pal purpose  of  the  program  had  been  attained.  The  Germans  did  not 
have  enough  serviceable  bases  to  put  their  air  forces  within  good 
striking  distance  of  the  beachhead.119  The  Luftwaffe  fighter  com- 
mander, Adolf  Galland,  recollected  after  his  capture  that  most  of  the 
airfields  he  had  planned  to  use  were  so  bombed  out  that  he  had  to  im- 
provise landing  grounds  elsewhere.120  Because  of  the  ruined  air  bases 
and  the  transportation  chaos,  as  well  as  of  the  danger  of  great  British- 
American  fighter  fleets  ranging  over  France,  the  Germans  could  not 
possibly  move  substantial  Luftwaffe  units  to  contest  the  invasion. 

Perhaps  the  chief  credit  for  keeping  the  German  Air  Force  out  of 
France  before  D-day  belonged,  as  both  Leigh-Mallory  and  Tedder 
said,121  to  the  Eighth  Air  Force,  whose  missions  to  vital  German  indus- 
trial areas  made  it  dilemmatical  for  the  enemy  to  remove  any  more 
fighters  from  the  Reich,  even  for  such  an  ominous  threat  as  OVER- 
LORD.  As  it  turned  out,  German  air  opposition  to  the  Normandy 
landings  was  astonishingly  slight,  far  below  the  scale  anticipated  by 
the  Allied  air  commanders.  Indeed,  one  of  the  most  remarkable  facts  of 
the  entire  war  is  that  the  Luftwaffe  did  not  make  a single  daylight  attack 
on  D-day  against  Allied  forces  in  the  Channel  or  on  the  beaches.122 

Breaching  the  Atlantic  W all 

By  the  spring  of  1944  the  Nazis  had  built  a wall  of  intricate  and  in- 
genious shore  defenses  along  exposed  beaches  in  the  Netherlands,  Bel- 
gium, and  northern  France.  Most  of  the  work  had  been  performed 
by  the  Todt  organization,  which  had  constructed  the  Siegfried  Line, 
under  the  supervision  of  the  redoubtable  Field  Marshal  Rommel.  This 
so-called  Atlantic  Wall  was  supposed  to  dominate  the  coast  sufficiently 
to  keep  Allied  landing  craft  from  approaching  the  continent,  thus  ren- 
dering a seaborne  assault  impossible.  A good  deal  of  its  reputation  came 
from  propaganda  designed  to  intimidate  the  western  powers,  and  it  is 
probable  the  Germans  deceived  themselves  as  to  its  strength.  Von 

166 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


Rundstedt  knew  the  Atlantic  Wall  was  much  overrated.  He  said  it 
had  no  depth  and  little  surface;  it  was  vulnerable  from  behind;  and  one 
day’s  intensive  assault  could  break  any  part  of  its  front.123  But  to  Allied 
commanders  it  appeared  formidable,  and  they  were  taking  no  chances. 
Fortunately,  the  Germans  had  left  until  last  the  construction  of  strong 
coastal  defenses  along  the  shore  of  Normandy.  Only  after  an  inspec- 
tion tour  by  Rommel  in  March  1944  did  the  Normandy  defenses  re- 
ceive much  attention.124 

The  Allied  planners  were  most  concerned  about  coastal  batteries 
along  the  Atlantic  Wall,  each  of  which  held  from  two  to  six  guns 
ranging  in  caliber  from  105  mm.  to  400  mm.  Perhaps  fifty  of  these 
batteries,  it  was  estimated,  would  be  functioning  in  Normandy  by  June 
1944.125  The  guns  could  command  the  sea  approaches  and  inflict  mur- 
derous damage  on  the  assault  craft.  Camouflaged,  cleverly  located,  and 
usually  buttressed  with  steel  and  concrete,  these  coastal  batteries  would 
be  exceedingly  difficult  to  neutralize.  Even  if  airplanes  got  through  the 
flak  they  would  have  to  place  their  bombs  directly  on  the  emplace- 
ments in  order  to  achieve  any  effect.  This  being  the  case,  OVER- 
LORD  plans  prior  to  April  1944  did  not  provide  for  any  serious  air 
assault  on  the  Atlantic  Wall  until  a few  hours  before  the  invasion  forces 
approached  the  continent.  At  that  time,  a gigantic  air-naval  bombard- 
ment would  attempt  to  silence  the  guns  by  knocking  them  out  or  by 
killing  and  driving  off  the  crews  who  manned  them. 

The  air  forces  had  expected  to  employ  only  medium,  light,  and 
fighter-bombers  in  this  manner  on  D-day.  But  ground  commanders 
calculated  that  4,800  tons  would  have  to  be  delivered,  thus  making  it 
necessary  to  utilize  Eighth  Air  Force  and  RAF  heavies.  Plans  were 
accordingly  made  to  send  out  Bomber  Command  missions  on  the  night 
before  the  assault  and  for  Eighth  Air  Force  operations  in  the  last  thirty 
minutes  before  the  landing  craft  touched  far  shore.  Ground  force  re- 
quirements went  a step  further  late  in  March  1944  when  General 
Montgomery  drew  attention  to  the  importance  of  making  sure  the 
coastal  defenses  were  immobilized.120  Soon  both  the  Army  and  the 
Navy  were  bringing  pressure  on  the  air  forces  to  carry  out  experi- 
ments to  determine  whether  some  of  the  coastal  batteries  could  be  de- 
stroyed before  D-day.  If  they  could,  not  so  much  would  depend  upon 
the  last-minute  drenching  of  gun  positions  in  what  might  be  conditions 
of  poor  visibility  on  D-day. 

The  air  leaders  felt  that  too  much  was  expected  by  the  other  services, 

167 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

which  made  calculations  on  the  basis  of  tonnages  dropped  rather  than 
on  accuracy  of  bombing.127  In  April,  however,  it  was  discovered  that 
eight  of  the  major  coastal  batteries  in  the  invasion  area  were  tempo- 
rarily vulnerable,  since  they  had  not  yet  been  casemated  and  their  lids 
were  not  fitted.  Leigh-Mallory  indicated  his  willingness  to  try  to  knock 
them  out.  Air  Chief  Marshal  Tedder  opposed  expending  any  great 
strength  in  the  attempt,  as  did  Lt.  Gen.  Walter  B.  Smith,  the  SHAEF 
chief  of  staff.  But  the  naval  commander  in  chief,  Adm.  Sir  Bertram 
H.  Ramsay,  urgently  insisted  that  the  unfinished  batteries  be  bombed 
without  delay.128 

The  greatest  pains  had  to  be  taken  to  conceal  from  the  Germans  the 
special  interest  which  the  Normandy  batteries  had  for  the  Allies.  Thus 
two  targets  outside  the  area  were  chosen  for  each  one  inside  it,  a 
“wildly  extravagant  method,”  as  Air  Chief  Marshal  Harris  later  termed 
it,129  but,  of  course,  a necessary  precaution.  This  meant  that  if  all  eight 
of  the  partially  completed  emplacements  along  the  Normandy  coast 
were  bombed,  sixteen  completed  batteries  elsewhere  would  have  to  be 
attacked.  The  principal  targets,  both  inside  and  outside  the  area,  were 
the  defenses  near  Le  Havre,  Calais,  Dunkerque,  Dieppe,  Fecamp,  Fon- 
tenay,  Benerville,  Ftaples,  Houlgate,  Pointe  du  Hoe,  Ouistreham,  La 
Pernelle,  Maisy,  and  Gravelines.  This  wide  distribution  called  for  a 
considerable  air  effort,  but  so  vital  did  naval  and  ground  commanders 
regard  the  attempt  that  Leigh-Mallory  gave  it  first  priority.  Naval 
commanders  were  to  judge  whether  any  of  the  batteries  should  be  re- 
attacked.130 

The  Ninth  Air  Force  and  the  Second  Tactical  Air  Force  undertook 
this  campaign  on  13  April  1944,  with  the  former  command  destined 
to  carry  out  a majority  of  the  attacks.  Ordinarily,  one  group  of  A-2o’s 
or  B-26’s  would  concentrate  on  a single  battery.  The  enemy’s  antiair- 
craft fire  was  usually  effective,  enough  so  that  aircraft  were  occasion- 
ally lost  and  flak  damage  was  frequently  very  heavy.  During  the  re- 
mainder of  April  all  twenty-four  targets  sustained  bombings  and  3,500 
tons  were  dropped.131  While  it  was  very  difficult  to  arrive  at  a sound 
estimate  of  damage,  it  seemed  that  fifteen  of  the  batteries  had  suffered, 
and  Leigh-Mallory  was  convinced  that  the  attacks  might  do  some 
good.  Certainly  the  ground  and  naval  commanders  insisted  that  the 
bombings  continue. 

While  the  air  forces  were  experimenting  with  the  bombardment  of 
the  coastal  defenses,  various  Allied  officials  became  more  and  more 


168 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


concerned  about  underwater  obstacles  which  the  Germans  were  found 
to  be  constructing  off  the  Normandy  shore,  the  last  of  the  vulnerable 
coastal  stretches  to  be  so  defended.  These  obstacles  were  steel,  con- 
crete, or  timber  stakes,  often  with  mines  or  shells  attached;  ramps  with 
mines  or  blades  to  tear  the  bottoms  out  of  landing  craft;  and  curved 
rails  and  pyramidical  contraptions  known  as  tetrahedra.  Leigh-Mallory 
urged  that  fighters  strafe  the  beaches  while  the  workmen  were  putting 
up  these  obstacles  during  low-tide  periods.  This  proposal,  a tempting 
one,  General  Eisenhower  finally  rejected  for  the  all-important  reason 
of  security.132  The  Allies  could  not  afford  to  indicate  their  concern 
with  the  Normandy  beaches.  But  ground  commanders  continued  to  be 
troubled  about  the  menace.  Another  danger  loomed  when  Ninth  Air 
Force  bombers  accidentally  spilled  some  bombs  into  the  water  and 
set  off  a strange  series  of  explosions.133  If  this  meant  the  Germans  were 
mining  all  the  beaches,  the  peril  to  landing  craft  would  be  greatly  com- 
pounded. But  the  naval  leaders  were  confident  that  they  could  sur- 
mount the  difficulty  and,  as  it  happened,  the  enemy  was  unable  to  com- 
plete the  mining  before  D-day. 

The  experimental  attacks  of  April  having  indicated  some  success  in 
damaging  or  retarding  the  completion  of  coastal  batteries,  operations 
of  this  nature  continued  until  the  invasion.  Usually  they  had  second 
priority  among  the  AEAF’s  objectives.  In  May,  RAF  Bomber  Com- 
mand joined  the  campaign  and,  toward  the  last,  so  did  the  Eighth  Air 
Force.  The  Ninth  Air  Force  sent  out  six  groups  of  B-26’s  and  A-2o’s 
on  4 May  and  five  Marauder  groups  on  9 May  to  attack  the  batteries. 
Two  groups  bombed  on  11  May  and  three  groups  on  12  and  13  May, 
each  group  concentrating  on  one  battery.  On  1 9 May  six  groups  prose- 
cuted the  campaign,  on  20  May  two  groups,  on  22  May  three  groups, 
and  on  24  May  five  groups.  Altogether,  it  constituted  a serious  drain 
on  the  Ninth  Air  Force,  but  total  airplane  losses  continued  to  be  very 
light.134 

The  Eighth  Air  Force  contribution  to  the  coastal-battery  campaign 
began  on  25  May  when  fifty-four  heavy  bombers  attacked  Eecamp  and 
St.-Valery.  General  Doolittle  had  been  encouraging  the  use  of  H2X 
radar  blind-bombing  equipment  with  an  eye  to  possible  cloudy  con- 
ditions on  D-day,  and  on  the  25  May  mission  this  equipment  was 
employed— but  with  discouraging  results.  More  success  attended  the 
efforts  of  the  Eighth  in  massive  raids  of  2,  3,  and  4 June,  when  4,700 
tons  were  dumped  on  coastal  batteries.135  It  was  RAF  Bomber  Com- 

169 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


mand  which  dropped  the  heaviest  tonnage  of  all  on  the  Atlantic  Wall, 
some  14,000  tons,  enduring  severe  losses  in  several  instances  to  its  slow, 
low-flying  fleets  of  night  bombers.  Its  most  effective  single  mission 
prior  to  the  night  before  the  invasion  occurred  on  28/29  May,  when 
350  tons  fell  on  guns  commanding  the  proposed  UTAH  beach  with 
excellent  results.136  And  the  tactical  air  forces  of  the  AEAF  increased 
their  attacks  on  the  coastal  defenses  in  the  days  just  before  the  landing. 

On  the  eve  of  D-day,  5,904  tons  of  bombs  and  495  sixty-pound 
rocket  projectiles  had  been  directed  at  coastal  batteries  in  the  Nor- 
mandy area,  while  17,190  tons  had  been  dropped  on  batteries  outside 
the  invasion  sector.  At  the  Allied  air  commanders’  conference  of  26 
May,  Zuckerman  had  presented  evidence  that  the  bombings  had  not 
been  so  effective  as  expected.  Subsequent  bombings  improved  the  pic- 
ture, however,  and  Leigh-Mallory  believed  that  at  least  twenty-one  of 
the  fifty-odd  batteries  in  the  NEPTUNE  area  had  been  damaged,  aside 
from  those  outside  the  invasion  area.137 

Whether  the  air  effort  and  bomb  expenditure  against  coastal  defenses 
prior  to  D-day  had  been  worth  while  was  never  satisfactorily  deter- 
mined. Such  an  enormous  weight  of  bombs  and  shells  struck  the  bat- 
teries shortly  before  the  invasion  that  it  was  impossible  to  segregate 
the  damage  as  to  air  or  naval,  pre-invasion  or  D-day.  It  was  clear  that 
the  efforts  to  conceal  the  landing  site  had  been  highly  successful,  for 
the  attacks  on  the  Atlantic  Wall  had  not  shown  the  projected  point  of 
assault.  It  was  also  true  that  the  scale  of  effort  had  been  well  within  the 
capacity  of  the  air  forces  and  that  losses  had  been  very  light  except  for 
Bomber  Command.  Reassuring  as  such  factors  were,  however,  they 
were  more  or  less  negative.  Most  post-invasion  surveys  concluded  that 
the  bombings  of  coastal  batteries  before  and  on  D-day  destroyed  com- 
paratively few  gun  emplacements,  as  the  air  commanders,  guided  part- 
ly by  experience  in  the  assault  of  1943  on  Pantelleria,*  had  predicted. 
But  the  unbalancing  and  dislocation  of  guns,  the  demoralization  of 
their  crews,  and  delays  to  the  completion  of  the  Normandy  beach 
batteries  were  accomplishments  of  no  small  nature.138 

The  Germans  had  constructed  a very  extensive  system  of  radar 
coverage  from  Norway  to  the  border  of  Spain.  Between  Ostend  and 
Cherbourg  their  system  was  especially  thick,  with  major  stations  every 
ten  miles  supported  by  a less  intensive  but  highly  efficient  network 
inland.  The  Allies  were  well  informed  about  the  location,  type,  and 

* Sec  Vol.  II,  432. 

170 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


importance  of  these  stations,  which  could  detect  airborne  and  seaborne 
forces  and  could  set  in  motion  both  coastal  and  flak  defenses.  Conse- 
quently, they  considered  from  the  earliest  days  of  invasion  planning 
to  the  last  moment  methods  of  throwing  the  entire  system  into  con- 
fusion. It  would  be  impossible  to  destroy  all  of  the  radar  installations 
by  bombing  because  of  their  number  and  stout  defenses.  Also,  it  should 
be  unnecessary  if  countermeasures  could  jam  most  of  the  stations.  But 
the  installations  between  the  Channel  Islands  and  Ostend  would  be 
difficult  or  impossible  to  neutralize  by  jamming.  These  stations  were 
really  the  most  important  ones,  since  they  could  furnish  good  readings 
on  ships,  control  coastal  guns,  and  assist  the  enemy’s  night  fighters  in 
locating  airborne  forces.139  Thus  it  was  essential  to  try  to  obliterate 
them  by  air  attack. 

The  ever  present  consideration  regarding  concealment  of  the  land- 
ing site  made  it  prudent  to  plan  on  bombing  two  radar  installations 
outside  the  assault  area  for  each  one  within  it.  Most  of  the  attacks  were 
carried  out  by  Second  TAF  Typhoons,  although  the  Eighth  and  Ninth 
Air  Forces  participated  on  several  occasions  and  RAF  Bomber  Com- 
mand distinguished  itself  in  one  brilliantly  successful  mission.  The  first 
attacks  took  place  on  io  and  18  May  against  the  so-called  Hoarding 
long-range  aircraft  reporting  stations.  On  25  May  the  campaign  be- 
came intense  when  42  sites  containing  106  installations  were  assigned 
for  bombing.140  The  tactical  air  forces  of  the  AEAF  flew  16,668  sorties 
against  these  targets,  sometimes  using  Spitfires  and  Typhoons  for  dive 
bombing,  Typhoons  for  firing  rocket  projectiles,  or  light  and  medium 
bombers  for  bombing.  And  the  heavies  put  several  stations  out  of 
action  in  precision  attacks  involving  a small  number  of  aircraft.  These 
missions  proved  very  dangerous  and  costly  but  the  Allies  did  not  have 
to  abandon  the  program,  a possibility  that  had  been  reckoned  on  when 
it  was  about  to  be  undertaken.141  Because  of  the  high  casualties,  how- 
ever, Leigh-Mallory  restricted  the  bombing  to  twelve  targets  in  the 
Normandy  area  after  29  May,  six  of  which  were  chosen  by  naval  au- 
thorities and  six  by  air  authorities.  All  of  them  were  attacked  before 
D-day.142 

The  damage  inflicted  on  the  radar  network  was  of  the  utmost  im- 
portance. Nearly  all  of  the  installations  in  the  invasion  area  were  badly 
crippled  or  wiped  out.  A devastating  attack  on  a station  near  Cher- 
bourg removed,  as  the  Allies  later  discovered,  the  headquarters  of  the 
Nazi  signals  intelligence  and  reporting  service  for  northern  France.143 

I7! 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

A USSTAF  appraisal  regarded  as  conservative  estimated  that  the 
bombings  had  reduced  the  effectiveness  of  the  enemy’s  radar  system 
in  the  crucial  area  to  18  per  cent.144  When  ingenious  radar  counter- 
measures were  put  into  effect  just  before  the  landing,  the  figure  fell  to 
5 per  cent.145  The  Germans  were  therefore  blind  to  Allied  movements 
toward  the  Atlantic  Wall,  and  they  were  utterly  confounded  about 
the  nature  and  intentions  of  the  invasion  forces.  They  were  surprised 
in  Normandy,  and  for  days  afterward  they  possessed  no  trustworthy 
means  of  detecting  the  approach  of  air  and  naval  fleets. 

The  Beginning  of  the  Campaign  against  Oil 

During  the  climax  of  the  pre-invasion  bombings  the  Eighth  and  Fif- 
teenth Air  Forces  launched  what  was  to  become  their  most  rewarding 
campaign  in  the  strategic  air  war,  the  destruction  of  enemy  oil  produc- 
tion. Since  the  start  of  the  war  Germany’s  oil  position  had  been  pre- 
carious, although  it  was  never  as  desperate  as  Allied  planners  usually 
imagined.  In  the  last  full  year  of  peace,  1938,  Germany  had  consumed 
7,500,000  tons  of  petroleum  products,  two-thirds  of  which  she  im- 
ported. When  she  invaded  Poland  in  September  1939,  her  oil  reserves 
were  so  low  that  only  six  months  of  operations  could  be  permitted. 
Lightning  campaigns  and  diplomatic  victories  soon  brought  the  re- 
sources of  France,  Hungary,  Rumania,  and  other  countries  into  Nazi 
control,  however.  Drastic  measures  to  restrict  consumption  were  help- 
ful, and  the  Germans  began  to  develop  a huge  industry  to  produce 
synthetic  oil  from  coal  by  means  of  the  Bergius  and  Fischer-Tropsch 
hydrogenation  processes.  In  1943  these  synthetic  oil  plants  turned  out 
more  than  6,180,000  tons  of  petroleum  products,  and  2,000,000  tons 
of  crude  oil  were  drawn  from  Rumania  and  Hungary.  While  their  re- 
serves were  always  low,  the  production  of  synthetic  oil  was  rising  so 
rapidly  by  early  1944  that  the  Germans  could  contemplate  the  future 
with  some  confidence.148 

As  early  as  1940  the  British  had  planned  seriously  to  attack  German 
oil  facilities,  and  American  interest  had  frequently  swung  to  this  possi- 
bility. But  by  May  1944  only  1.1  per  cent  of  all  Allied  bombs  had  been 
directed  at  petroleum  targets.147  The  reason  why  the  Allies  delayed 
opening  an  oil  campaign  so  long  was  simply  that  they  did  not  have 
sufficient  air  forces  available.  Oil  production  centers  were  widely  scat- 
tered about  in  the  Axis  countries  in  more  than  eighty  different  locali- 
ties, many  of  them  entirely  out  of  range  before  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force 


172 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


was  established  in  Italy.  Components  of  the  oil  complex  were  four  or 
five  times  more  numerous  than  aircraft  factories  and  eight  times  more 
numerous  than  ball-bearing  production  centers.148  Not  until  early  1944 
did  the  Allies  possess,  in  the  Eighth  and  Fifteenth  Air  Forces  and  RAF 
Bomber  Command,  enough  heavy  bombers  to  undertake  a systematic 
attack  on  oil,  and  first  they  had  to  overcome  the  dangerously  resur- 
gent Luftwaffe.  Then  there  were  CROSSBOW  commitments  and,  of 
course,  the  unexpectedly  large  demands  of  the  pre-invasion  bombing 
campaigns.  On  its  part,  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  expended  most  of  its 
effort  in  POINTBLANK,  assistance  to  the  land  campaigns  in  southern 
Europe,  and  political  raids  on  Balkan  capitals.  As  late  as  January  1944 
air  commanders  in  both  London  and  Washington,  fortified  with  the 
views  of  the  operations  analysis  section  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force,  agreed 
that  oil  should  receive  no  priority  in  the  strategic  air  war.149  There 
were  too  many  other  things  to  do. 

As  the  victorious  nature  of  POINTBLANK  operations  became  evi- 
dent during  February  1944,  considerable  interest  developed  in  attack- 
ing oil  production.  The  Joint  Intelligence  Committee,150  Lt.  Gen. 
Brehon  B.  Somervell  of  the  Army  Service  Forces,151  and  the  American 
Embassy’s  Economic  Warfare  Division  suggested  that  the  time  was 
opportune  to  undertake  an  oil  offensive.  Most  significant  of  all,  General 
Spaatz  came  to  the  conclusion  during  that  month  that  a strategic  attack 
on  enemy  oil  would  flush  the  German  air  force  and  would  contribute 
more  to  the  success  of  OVERLORD  than  any  other  type  of  campaign 
within  the  capabilities  of  the  heavy  bomber  forces.  In  his  Plan  for  the 
Completion  of  the  Combined  Bomber  Offensive,  which  he  presented 
to  General  Eisenhower  on  5 March  1944  as  an  alternative  to  the  AEAF 
transportation  plan,*  Spaatz  drew  attention  to  the  great  strides  the 
Germans  were  making  in  producing  synthetic  oil.  In  the  next  six 
months,  the  USSTAF  commander  estimated,  the  enemy  might  obtain 
8,600,000  tons  of  liquid  fuels  and  lubricants,  which  would  largely  re- 
lieve him  of  his  embarrassment  with  respect  to  oil  requirements.  Ap- 
proximately 90  per  cent  of  this  output  was  accounted  for  by  fifty-four 
crude-oil  refineries  and  synthetic  petroleum  plants,  of  which  twenty- 
seven  were  especially  important.  These  twenty-seven  centers  had  been 
grouped  about  Ploesti,  in  Silesia,  and  in  the  Ruhr  in  the  overconfident 
expectation  that  the  Luftwaffe  could  protect  them.  By  destroying 
them  the  Allies  might  deprive  the  Germans  of  half  their  gasoline  sup- 

* See  above,  p.  76. 

*73 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

ply.  If  all  fifty-four  centers  were  attacked  successfully,  German  oil 
production  might  fall  to  zero  by  September  1 944.  The  twenty-seven- 
plant  objective,  Spaatz  contended,  was  already  well  within  the  capa- 
bilities of  the  Eighth  and  Fifteenth  Air  Forces.162 

Several  obstacles  stood  in  the  way  of  an  oil  offensive  at  that  time. 
General  Eisenhower  had  before  him  the  recommendations  of  Leigh- 
Mallory,  Tedder,  and  many  others  that  the  railway  system  of  western 
Europe  should  be  destroyed  in  a long-range  bombing  campaign.  The 
requirements  of  CROSSBOW  were  large  and  growing.  Air  Chief 
Marshal  Harris  of  Bomber  Command  was  opposed  to  the  oil  project.163 
In  AAF  Headquarters,  Arnold  and  Maj.  Gen.  Barney  M.  Giles  sup- 
ported Spaatz’s  ideas  in  general  but  felt  they  were  premature  for  con- 
sideration by  the  Combined  Chiefs  of  Staff,  that  it  was  up  to  Spaatz 
to  convince  Eisenhower  before  anything  was  done  in  Washington.154 

There  was,  however,  a chance  to  open  the  oil  campaign  by  dispatch- 
ing the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  to  attack  the  crude-oil  refineries  around 
Ploesti,  already  attacked  in  the  famous  mission  of  August  1943.  On  17 
March  1944,  Arnold  notified  Spaatz  that  the  Combined  Chiefs  had  no 
objection  to  his  ordering  attacks  on  Ploesti  at  the  first  opportunity,155 
but  even  so  it  was  thought  wise  to  begin  the  undertaking  surreptitiously 
under  the  general  directive  which  called  for  bombing  transportation 
targets  supporting  German  forces  that  faced  the  Russians,  who  were 
then  breaking  into  Rumania.156  Such  transportation  targets  stood  in  the 
vicinity  of  Ploesti,  and  on  5 April  1944  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  ad- 
ministered an  attack  on  the  marshalling  yards  there  with  146  B-24’s  and 
90  B-iy’s.  Most  of  the  588  tons  of  bombs,  with  more  than  coincidental 
inaccuracy,  struck  and  badly  damaged  the  Astra  group  of  refineries 
near  by.  The  Americans  did  not  proclaim  the  opening  of  the  oil  offen- 
sive, even  in  their  secret  intelligence  summaries,  but  on  1 5 and  24  April 
large  forces  of  heavy  bombers  again  attacked  Ploesti  marshalling  yards 
in  the  expectation  that  most  of  the  bombs  would  produce  “incidental” 
damage  to  oil  refineries.  This  damage  occurred,  and  to  a very  encour- 
aging extent.157  Hitler  was  soon  referring  petulantly  to  the  whining 
of  the  Rumanians  about  these  air  attacks,168  and  the  Americans  were 
delighted  with  the  results.  By  4 May,  MAAF  headquarters  fortified  the 
authority  for  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force’s  oil  missions  by  granting  per- 
mission for  them  to  continue  if  tactical  considerations  allowed.159 

While  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  was  inaugurating  the  oil  campaign, 
the  way  was  partly  cleared  for  Eighth  Air  Force  participation.  Spaatz 


174 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


fought  hard  for  his  plan  of  5 March  1944  and  against  the  long-range 
transportation  plan  to  bomb  rail  centers.  The  cardinal  issue,  as  Spaatz 
made  clear  at  the  time  and  after  the  war,160  was  to  draw  the  German 
Air  Force  into  the  skies.  He  contended  that  it  would  expend  itself 
against  heavy  bomber  fleets  engaged  in  attacking  oil  installations  but 
would  conserve  its  strength  while  targets  of  such  dubious  value  as  rail 
centers  were  being  bombed,  and  he  was  right.  But  General  Eisen- 
hower’s decision  in  favor  of  the  transportation  plan  on  25-26  March 
did  not  rule  out  altogether  the  possibility  of  attacking  oil.  Five  days 
after  the  supposed  settlement  of  the  oil-rail  center  controversy,  Spaatz 
proposed  that  thirteen  synthetic  oil  plants  in  Germany  be  attacked  as 
third  priority,  coming  after  the  German  Air  Force  and  the  rail  centers. 
In  order  to  do  this  the  Eighth  Air  Force  and  Bomber  Command  would 
bomb  rail  centers  by  daylight.  Also  during  daylight  the  Eighth  would 
attack  oil  plants  in  the  Ruhr  while  RAF  heavies  would  go  to  the  Stettin 
vicinity  at  night.161  This  proposal  the  RAF  rejected  because  its  leaders 
were  unwilling  to  expose  their  heavy  bombers  at  that  time  in  daylight 
operations  and,  of  course,  because  most  of  them  were  not  then  con- 
vinced of  the  advantages  of  an  oil  offensive. 

There  was  still  another  possibility.  Eisenhower’s  directive  to  the  stra- 
tegic air  forces  on  17  April  1944  gave  the  German  Air  Force  first  pri- 
ority in  USSTAF  target  listings.  The  Luftwaffe  used  oil  products  and, 
as  AAF  Headquarters  pointed  out,102  attacks  on  oil  installations  could 
come  under  the  general  heading  of  POINTBLANK  without  disturb- 
ing the  Combined  Chiefs  or  the  British  with  efforts  to  change  the  exist- 
ing system  of  priorities;  moreover,  the  destruction  of  German  fighters 
which  rose  to  defend  the  oil  plants  was  undoubtedly  a major  purpose 
of  the  Eighth  Air  Force.  Thus  the  Eighth  Air  Force  could  destroy  oil 
targets,  at  least  as  an  experiment,  while  pursuing  POINTBLANK,  and 
the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  could  bomb  them  under  the  subterfuge  of  at- 
tacking railway  objectives.183  General  Eisenhower,  who  leaned  heavily 
on  Spaatz  in  air  matters,  granted  verbal  permission  on  19  April  for  the 
bombing  of  German  oil  targets  on  the  next  two  days  of  good  visual 
conditions.  The  supreme  commander  emphasized,  as  did  Spaatz,  that 
the  fundamental  purpose  was  to  determine  the  willingness  of  the  Ger- 
mans to  send  their  fighters  against  attacking  bombers.164  Somehow  it 
seemed  important  to  the  two  U.S.  leaders  not  to  go  on  record  as  taking 
the  initiative  in  opening  this  new  offensive,  which  soon  would  be  the 
pride  and  chief  concern  of  the  strategic  air  forces.  Tedder,  who  was 

*75 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


in  charge  of  strategic  air  operations  for  OVERLORD,  momentarily 
jeopardized  the  project  by  insisting  upon  CROSSBOW  attacks  by  the 
Eighth  Air  Force  instead  of  the  oil  missions.  But  a visit  of  Spaatz  to  his 
office  on  20  April  resulted  in  a compromise  to  the  effect  that  one  day’s 
effort  would  be  devoted  to  CROSSBOW,  and  that  the  two  days  of 
good  bombing  weather  would  remain  open  for  the  oil  plant  assaults.165 
Spaatz  accordingly  directed  Doolittle  to  plan  on  attacking  as  many  oil 
targets  as  possible  in  central  Germany.166 

On  the  following  day,  2 1 April  1944,  Doolittle  had  864  heavy  bomb- 
ers and  1 ,040  fighters  scheduled  to  begin  the  oil  offensive.167  But  rapidly 
deteriorating  weather  conditions  at  the  bases  and  target  areas  compelled 
him  to  cancel  the  mission.  Not  until  1 2 May  were  conditions  suitable 
for  the  great  experimental  attack,  one  which  the  Germans  had  been 
dreading  almost  above  everything.168  They  had  foolishly  grouped  their 
main  synthetic  oil  plants  together,  and  by  now  they  had  no  strong 
Luftwaffe  to  defend  them.  Their  shortsightedness  proved  painful  on 
the  1 2 May  mission  and  during  the  numerous  attacks  which  followed. 
On  this  occasion,  15  combat  wings  involving  935  heavy  bombers,  es- 
corted by  Eighth  and  Ninth  Air  Force  and  RAF  fighters,  took  off  for 
what  was  to  prove  a historic  operation.169  The  aircraft  proceeded  to  a 
point  south  of  the  Ruhr,  skirting  the  highly  defended  sites  in  that  area 
and  around  Flannover  and  Brunswick,  and  then  flew  east  and  north- 
east toward  the  target  area.  Near  Frankfurt  the  GAF  rose  to  intercept 
the  leading  combat  wings,  and  the  enemy  fighter  pilots  exhibited  their 
usual  aggressiveness  once  they  were  off  the  ground.  Between  150  and 
200  enemy  aircraft  attacked,  mostly  in  mass,  using  saturation  tactics. 
In  some  cases  30  German  fighters  came  in  abreast,  firing  savagely  and 
even  ramming  the  B-iy’s.  One  of  the  combat  wings  lost  half  its  bomb- 
ers and  became  thoroughly  disorganized.  Before  further  harm  was 
done,  escorting  P-47?s  and  P-5  i’s  came  to  the  rescue  and  the  bombers 
proceeded  to  their  targets.  Most  antiaircraft  fire  was  of  moderate  in- 
tensity. More  than  800  heavies  attacked,  dropping  1,718  tons  on  the 
synthetic  oil  plants  at  Zwickau,  Merseburg-Leuna,  Briix,  Liitzkendorf, 
Bohlen,  and  other  cities.  The  targets  were  slightly  obscured  by  low 
clouds  and  ground  haze.  During  the  withdrawal  phase  a force  of  50 
German  twin-engine  fighters  pressed  determined  attacks  against  the 
bombers  for  almost  a half-hour  and  smaller  groups  of  single-engine 
fighters  attempted  interception.  In  all,  the  Eighth  Air  Force  lost  46 
heavy  bombers  on  this  mission,  and  10  Allied  fighters  failed  to  return. 

176 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


Bomber  crews  claimed  1 1 5 enemy  aircraft  and  fighter  pilots  75.  Cer- 
tainly the  professed  objective  of  the  mission  was  attained:  the  German 
Air  Force  had  reacted  vigorously  to  the  attacks  on  oil  plants  and  had 
suffered  severe  losses.*  More  important  in  the  long  run  was  the  fact 
that  all  of  the  targets  were  damaged,  some  of  them  very  heavily.  Briix, 
Bohlen,  and  Zeitz  were  knocked  temporarily  out  of  operation,  and  the 
bombing  at  Merseburg-Leuna  happened  to  destroy  a building  in  which 
experiments  were  being  conducted  with  heavy  water  for  Germany’s 
atomic-bomb  project.170  It  was  an  excellent  mission,  despite  the  heavy 
loss  of  bombers,  and  an  auspicious  opening  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force 
campaign  to  deny  the  Germans  oil. 

Heavy  OVERLORD  commitments  and  weather  conditions  kept 
the  Eighth  Air  Force  away  from  oil  targets  for  more  than  two  weeks 
after  the  notable  operation  of  12  May.  But  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force 
was  by  now  well  launched  in  the  oil  offensive.  Its  chief  target  in  this 
system  was  the  invaluable  cluster  of  crude-oil  refineries  at  Ploesti,  the 
source  of  approximately  one-fourth  of  Germany’s  petroleum  even 
when,  as  at  that  time,  it  was  not  in  full  operation.  The  Fifteenth  also 
included  smaller  crude-oil  targets  in  Austria,  Hungary,  and  Yugoslavia 
while  its  companion  air  force,  the  RAF  205  Group,  filled  the  Danube 
regularly  with  mines  to  interfere  with  barge  shipments  of  oil  to  the 
Reich.  These  Danube  mining  operations  proved  more  effective  than 
the  Allies  apparently  realized.171  On  5 May  the  Fifteenth’s  bombers, 
almost  500  strong,  fired  many  of  the  installations  around  Ploesti  and 
encountered,  as  might  be  expected  in  view  of  Germany’s  need  for  the 
refineries,  very  intensive  antiaircraft  fire  and  more  than  100  fighters. 
On  18  May  700  Fortresses  and  Liberators  flew  against  Ploesti  but  two- 
thirds  of  them  could  not  attack  because  of  adverse  visibility  conditions. 
Good  results  were  achieved  on  3 1 May,  when  460  heavies  of  the  Fif- 
teenth bombed  the  refineries,  and  on  6 June,  when  300  B-24’s  carried 
out  a highly  successful  attack.172  Ploesti  would  remain  the  favorite  tar- 

* As  usual,  an  irreconcilable  discrepancy  is  evident  between  American  calculations 
and  captured  German  records,  and  smaller  disparities  among  the  several  types  of  data 
kept  by  the  Nazis.  While  the  Americans  claimed  190  enemy  fighters  on  the  12  May  1944 
mission,  one  German  source  acknowledges  that  50  were  lost  and  10  were  missing,  and 
another  admits  of  only  39  lost  for  a two-day  period,  12-13  May,  all  over  the  Reich. 
On  the  other  hand,  the  Americans  are  surely  correct  in  their  secret  reports  when  they 
state  that  10  U.S.  fighters  were  lost;  yet  the  Germans  listed  81  for  sure  and  10  prob- 
ables, all  apart  from  their  mendacious  public  announcements.  (German  statistics  on 
German  fighter  reaction  to  Anglo-American  bombing  attacks.  Science  Memo  No.  ij, 
ADI[K]  [USAFE];  Gesamtsverluste  der  fliegende  Verbande,  in  German  High  Com- 
mand Quartermaster  collection  now  in  the  British  Air  Ministry,  AHB  6.) 


177 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


get  of  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  until  August  1944,  when  Russian  land 
forces  moved  into  the  ruins.  And  soon  after  D-day  aircrews  of  the 
Fifteenth  would  become  very  familiar  with  the  route  to  the  synthetic 
oil  plants  of  eastern  Germany. 

The  Eighth  Air  Force  returned  to  the  oil  offensive  on  28  May  1944, 
when  more  than  400  heavies  bombed  synthetic  oil  plants  at  Ruhland, 
Magdeburg,  Zeitz,  Merseburg-Leuna,  and  Liitzkendorf,  all  of  them 
damaged  targets  still  suffering  from  the  raids  of  1 2 May.  Results  were 
good  everywhere.173  Zeitz  was  put  out  of  operation  again.  Later,  a 
German  prisoner  reported  that  Italian  conscript  workers  had  helped 
spread  the  flames  at  the  giant  Merseburg-Leuna  plant  and  that  Goeb- 
bels  and  Speer  had  rushed  to  the  stricken  area  to  deliver  inspirational 
speeches  to  the  demoralized  German  laborers.174  On  29  May  the  Eighth 
sent  2 24  Liberators  to  the  vast  and  distant  synthetic  oil  establishment 
at  Politz  and  damaged  it  severely.175 

On  both  the  28  and  29  May  missions  the  Eighth  Air  Force  had  met 
serious  Luftwaffe  opposition  and  had  lost  forty-nine  heavy  bombers 
on  the  two  operations.170  Undoubtedly,  the  German  high  command 
was  profoundly  aroused  by  these  attacks  on  the  oil  installations  and 
had  ordered  the  Luftwaffe  to  resist  them  with  all  its  power.  Other 
heavy  bomber  missions  into  the  Reich  during  the  weeks  before  the  in- 
vasion pinned  down  Germany’s  fighter  units  and  overwhelmed  them 
whenever  they  attempted  to  interfere.  Notable  were  Eighth  Air  Force 
attacks  of  18  April  against  the  Berlin  area,  of  24  April  against  Fried- 
richshafen,  of  26  April  against  Brunswick  and  Hannover,  of  29  April 
and  7 and  8 May  against  Berlin.  The  Fifteenth  Air  Force  missions  to 
Ploesti  and  to  Vienna  (10,  24,  and  29  May)  likewise  served  to  dis- 
courage German  removal  of  fighter  units  to  meet  the  threat  of  OVER- 
LORD.  These  strategic  assaults  on  the  Reich  were  closely  related  to 
the  fact  that  the  invading  forces  were  not  disturbed  by  the  GAF  on 
D-day.  During  the  spring  of  1 944  Allied  fighter  pilots  and  gunners  so 
increased  their  pressure  on  the  enemy  that  Goering  received  warning 
in  mid-May  of  Luftwaffe  pilot  losses  critically  in  excess  of  replace- 
ments.177 An  American  appraisal  of  German  records  indicates  that  air- 
craft losses  sustained  by  the  GAF,  including  planes  damaged  to  the 
point  of  requiring  replacement,  reached  their  peak  in  April,  the  total 
figures  for  February  being  1 ,432,  for  March  2,01 2,  in  April  2,540,  and 
during  May  2,46 1 ,178 

Forcing  the  Luftwaffe  to  remain  in  Germany  and  inflicting  heavy 
178 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


losses  on  it  there  were  important  enough,  but  the  injury  wrought  on 
oil  production  centers  was  exceptionally  painful  to  the  enemy.  The 
first  two  months  after  D-day  would  not  reveal  Germany’s  plight  with 
regard  to  oil  supplies,  but  from  August  1944  on,  all  German  forces 
would  be  greatly  hampered  by  lack  of  fuel  and  lubricants.  As  soon  as 
the  synthetic  plants  were  attacked  the  enemy  correctly  gauged  the 
Allied  intention  for  a continued  offensive  and  comprehended  how  seri- 
ous for  the  Reich  it  was  likely  to  be.  Albert  Speer  afterward  said  that 
the  oil  attacks  of  May  1 944  brought  about  the  decision  of  the  war.179 
Only  5,166  tons  of  bombs  were  aimed  at  oil  targets  during  that  month. 
Yet  German  production  for  June  fell  sharply,  amounting  only  to  half 
the  figure  for  March  output,  and  the  Germans,  appalled  at  the  vulnera- 
bility of  Ploesti  and  of  their  synthetic  oil  plants,  undertook  desperate 
measures  to  maintain  a flow  of  fuel  to  their  armed  forces.180  It  was  only 
the  beginning,  and  both  the  Allies  and  the  Germans  knew  it.  USSTAF 
was,  of  course,  jubilant  at  the  effectiveness  of  these  first  attacks.  Eisen- 
hower was  convinced,  and  the  British  were  won  over  to  the  oil  cam- 
paign by  the  last  of  May.181  On  4 June  1944,  an  ETO  press  release 
would  proclaim  publicly  the  oil  offensive,  and  on  8 June,  with  OVER- 
LORD  begun,  Spaatz  would  place  oil  in  first  priority  for  the  U.S.  stra- 
tegic air  forces.  The  campaign  was  off  to  a splendid  start. 

Air  Reconnaissance  before  the  Invasion 

The  reconnaissance  units  of  all  air  forces  were  heavily  employed  in 
vital  activities  during  the  pre-invasion  period.  In  addition  to  the  normal 
photographic  coverage  of  POINTBLANK  targets  in  Germany  and 
watchful  tactical  reconnaissance  of  enemy  activities  in  France  and  the 
Low  Countries,  exact  information  had  to  be  obtained  for  the  impend- 
ing OVERLORD  operation.  Considerations  of  security  dictated  the 
scattering  of  reconnaissance  effort  over  western  Europe.  AEAF  head- 
quarters supervised  the  general  program  for  reconnaissance  related  to 
the  invasion  and  adjusted  air  requirements  with  those  of  21  Army 
Group  and  the  naval  forces  as  well  as  with  those  of  SHAEF.  Further- 
more, the  photographic  units  of  USSTAF  were  brought  into  a close 
working  relationship  with  the  AEAF  so  that  coverage  would  be  com- 
plete and  efficient.182  The  Allied  air  forces  were  somewhat  under- 
strength in  photographic  and  tactical  reconnaissance  aircraft  but  by 
the  spring  of  1944  they  had  much  experience  and  good  methods.183 

As  D-day  approached,  tactical  reconnaissance  missions  took  on  an 


I79 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


especially  urgent  character.  The  Ninth  Air  Force  and  the  Second  TAF 
flew  at  least  eight  missions  daily,  at  times  in  weather  regarded  as  too 
hazardous  for  ordinary  air  operations,  over  the  area  in  France  north 
of  the  Seine.  Partly  this  was  to  create  such  a broad  reconnaissance  pat- 
tern that  our  actual  intentions  would  not  be  revealed,  but  the  pilots 
often  reported  via  radio-telephone  the  movement  of  trains  and  other 
targets  which  fighter-bombers  could  attack  on  short  notice.  And  they 
would  relay  timely  information  on  troop  movements  or  activity  in  re- 
pairing bridges  and  railroad  tracks,  and  sometimes  would  make  photo- 
graphs of  targets  when  assessment  was  needed  at  once.  The  Ninth  Air 
Force  alone  dispatched  more  than  400  aircraft  on  such  visual  recon- 
naissance missions  between  1 5 May  and  D-day.184 

It  was  photographic  rather  than  tactical  reconnaissance  which  as- 
sumed the  more  importance  for  the  invasion  leaders  as  D-day  drew 
near.  Already  having  mosaics  of  the  entire  coast  line  of  western  Europe 
and  pictures  taken  of  the  Normandy  and  Pas-de-Calais  beaches  from 
3,500  feet,  they  required  still  more  specific  data.  Accordingly,  the 
Ninth  Air  Force  and  the  Second  TAF  sent  out  aircraft  to  photograph 
the  proposed  assault  beaches  from  varying  distances  and  at  wave-top 
height  so  the  unit  commanders  would  know  exactly  what  their  objec- 
tives would  look  like  from  several  miles  out,  at  1,500  yards,  and  from 
the  shore  line  as  they  moved  in  on  the  crucial  day  of  the  landing.  Also, 
the  unarmed  reconnaissance  airplanes  made  photographs  of  every  pos- 
sible yard  of  the  beaches  and  areas  immediately  behind  them,  zooming 
and  swerving  to  avoid  cliffs  and  sand  dunes,  in  order  to  provide  ground 
force  officers  with  up-to-date  information  about  the  shore  they  would 
soon  find  themselves  on.  It  was  necessary,  moreover,  to  make  low- 
altitude  photographs  of  the  proposed  airborne  landing  areas  for  assist- 
ance in  planning  these  operations.185  Here,  as  elsewhere,  two  missions 
were  prescribed  for  other  areas  for  each  one  over  Normandy. 

The  10th  Photo  Reconnaissance  Group  of  the  Ninth  Air  Force  per- 
formed eleven  extraordinary  missions,  all  as  dangerous  as  they  were 
vital.  The  exact  nature  of  the  underwater  obstacles  and  beach  barri- 
cades not  being  known  to  the  assault  commanders,  it  was  decided  to 
make  photographs  of  the  shallow  water  and  beaches  from  altitudes  as 
low  as  fifteen  feet.  The  photographs  obtained  were  of  the  utmost  value, 
since  they  revealed  which  of  the  obstacles  were  timber  and  which  were 
steel  or  concrete,  how  the  mines  and  shells  had  been  affixed,  where  the 
concentrations  were  worst,  and  how  deeply  they  were  anchored.  The 

180 


PRE-INVASION  OPERATIONS 


assault  commanders  could  therefore  plan  precisely  how  to  avoid  or  re- 
move the  obstacles  as  they  moved  toward  the  French  coast.  One  pilot 
was  killed  in  these  so-called  Dicing  missions,  and  the  group  won  much 
praise  and  a Presidential  unit  citation.186 

In  these  reconnaissance  and  other  missions  it  was  necessary  to  avoid 
tipping  the  enemy  as  to  the  exact  nature  of  Allied  plans  for  the  in- 
vasion. He  could  scarcely  be  fooled  as  to  the  fact  that  one  was  to  occur, 
for  the  enormous  build-up  of  Allied  forces  in  the  United  Kingdom,  the 
intensification  of  bombing  operations,  and  the  inevitable  speculation 
in  Britain  and  America  informed  him  of  the  chief  intention  of  his  foes. 
But  plans  built  essentially  on  the  common-sense  rule  of  avoiding  such  a 
concentration  of  the  air  effort  as  to  betray  Allied  intentions  served  well 
the  purpose  of  achieving  for  Eisenhower’s  forces  on  D-day  the  advan- 
tage of  tactical  surprise.  Indeed,  the  overwhelming  bulk  of  German 
divisions  in  the  west  was  deployed  to  the  north  of  Normandy  in  the 
expectation  that  the  attack  would  come  in  the  Pas-de-Calais,  and  was 
cut  off  from  Normandy  by  the  chaotic  condition  Allied  air  attack  had 
brought  upon  the  intervening  transportation.  The  enemy,  as  General 
Spaatz  was  able  to  report,  had  been  thrown  completely  off  guard.187 

Though  the  air  forces  could  hardly  claim  full  credit  for  this  achieve- 
ment, the  responsibility  rested  heavily  upon  them  and  added  greatly 
to  the  burden  of  their  several  pre-invasion  tasks.  In  this— as  in  the  trans- 
portation campaign,  the  airfield  attacks,  the  neutralization  of  the  At- 
lantic Wall,  reconnaissance,  and  the  steady  blows  at  Germany’s  indus- 
trial vitals— the  Anglo-American  air  forces  did  more  than  facilitate  the 
historic  invasion  of  6 June  1944.  They  made  it  possible. 


181 


SECTION  II 


INVASION  OF  IV INTERN  EUROPE 


CHAPTER  7 


*********** 


NORMANDY 

WHEN  in  the  preparation  of  a military  history  one  comes 
to  an  event  so  historically  significant  as  the  Allied  invasion 
of  Normandy  on  6 June  1944,  one  naturally  feels  that  the 
occasion  calls  for  dramatic  effect.  But  it  is  not  always  possible  to 
achieve  such  an  effect,  and  this  is  especially  true  in  the  narrating  of  air 
operations.  So  much  of  air’s  contribution  to  the  success  of  the  Nor- 
mandy landings  depended  upon  the  cumulative  effect  of  operations  ex- 
tending back  through  the  days,  months,  and  even  years  which  preceded 
D-day  that  D-day  itself,  though  providing  an  obvious  climax  to  this 
preparatory  work,  seems  almost  an  anticlimax. 

There  was  drama  enough  in  the  loading  of  thousands  of  paratroopers 
for  a hazardous  drop  behind  the  enemy  lines;  in  the  difficult  night  as- 
sembly of  hundreds  of  loaded  troop  carriers  as  they  formed  for  the 
flight  across  the  Channel;  in  the  tense  activity  on  scores  of  airfields 
as  ground  crews  readied  their  planes  for  the  big  show;  in  the  fighter 
sweeps  sent  out  beyond  the  beaches  to  flush  such  of  the  enemy’s  planes 
as  might  be  within  reach;  and  in  the  massive  bombings  of  the  beaches 
themselves  just  before  the  landings.  But  for  all  the  unprecedented  ac- 
tivity of  a night  and  a day  in  which  the  American  air  forces  alone  dis- 
patched more  than  8,000  planes  on  missions  directly  related  to  the  in- 
vasion, the  day  proved  to  be,  in  one  sense,  peculiarly  uneventful.  There 
were  no  great  air  battles— so  well  had  the  preparatory  work  been  done 
and  so  overwhelming  were  the  Allied  air  forces  that  the  Luftwaffe  re- 
fused the  challenge.  The  record  of  air  operations  in  its  most  significant 
aspects  points  chiefly,  therefore,  to  impressive  evidence  of  a victory 
already  won  and  to  a massive  effectiveness  speaking  first  of  the  singu- 
larly undramatic  skills  of  organization  and  planning. 

The  record  speaks  too  of  adherence  to  sound  principles  of  air  war- 

185 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


fore.  Those  principles,  drawn  from  a wide  and  lengthening  experi- 
ence, gave  to  the  air  forces  supporting  the  ground  operations  begun  on 
D-day  clearly  defined  tactical  roles.  In  order  of  their  priority,  as  fixed 
by  FM  100-20  of  2 1 July  1943,*  they  were:  ( 1 ) to  establish  and  main- 
tain control  of  the  air  in  the  critical  area  for  the  purpose  of  eliminating 
the  enemy’s  capacity  to  interfere  from  the  air;  (2)  to  isolate  the  battle- 
field by  interdicting  enemy  movements  of  troops  and  supplies;  and 
(3)  to  render  immediate  support  to  the  ground  forces  on  the  battle 
front.  Since  the  first  task  had  been  so  largely  accomplished  in  advance 
of  D-day,  the  following  pages  deal  primarily  with  activities  aimed  at 
the  second  and  third  of  these  objectives. 

D-Day 

The  great  amphibious  assault  on  Hitler’s  “Fortress  Europe”  had  been 
scheduled  for  5 June  1944,  but  forecasts  of  weather  unfavorable  to  air 
operations  caused  a postponement  of  twenty-four  hours.  The  date  was 
irrevocably  fixed  as  6 June  at  a tensely  dramatic  meeting  in  the  early- 
morning  hours  of  4 June.  H-hour  for  the  seaborne  landings  on  the 
American  beaches  at  UTAH  and  OMAHA  was  set  for  0630  and  on 
the  British  beaches  at  times  from  0700  to  0730  hours.1 

It  had  been  a postulate  in  all  Allied  planning— from  AWPD-i  of 
September  1941  to  the  final  draft  of  the  NEPTUNE  plan— that  the 
success  of  an  invasion  of  the  European  continent  would  depend  upon 
the  establishment  of  supremacy  in  the  air.  For  that  purpose  the  great- 
est air  armadas  known  to  history  had  been  assembled  on  British  bases. 
Added  to  the  resources  of  RAF’s  Bomber  Command  and  Second  Tac- 
tical Air  Force  was  the  overwhelming  power  of  two  U.S.  air  forces. 
More  than  4,000  aircraft  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force  were  available  for 
support  of  the  assault.  An  equal  number  of  planes,  including  1,300 
troop  carrier  aircraft,  were  at  the  disposal  of  General  Brereton’s  Ninth 
Air  Force.2  There  was  work  for  all,  and  much  of  it  would  have  to  be 
accomplished  well  in  advance  of  the  beach  touchdowns. 

While  RAF  Bomber  Command  concentrated  its  attention  on  coastal 
batteries  from  the  Cherbourg  peninsula  east  to  Houlgate  in  character- 
istic area  bombings  executed  during  the  darkness  preceding  H-hour, 
the  U.S.  air  forces  staged  the  largest  troop  carrier  operation  yet  under- 
taken. In  the  closing  hours  of  5 June  great  sky  trains,  carrying  the  82d 
and  101st  Airborne  Divisions  of  the  U.S.  Army,  took  off  from  fields 

* See  Vol.  II,  205-6. 

186 


• TAT  UT| 


MILES 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


ranging  from  Devon  to  Lincolnshire  for  drops  behind  UTAH  beach. 
Plans  called  for  a total  lift  of  over  17,000  men  together  with  requisite 
equipment,  and  to  convince  those  committed  to  the  operation  of  their 
full  confidence  in  its  success,  Eisenhower  and  Brereton  had  visited 
units  of  the  101st  during  the  evening  and  witnessed  their  take-offs.3 

It  was  a tribute  to  training  that  over  900  planes  and  more  than  100 
gliders  of  IX  Troop  Carrier  Command  assembled  in  darkness,  and  that 
the  outward  flight  west  of  the  Cherbourg  peninsula  was  executed  ac- 
cording to  plan  and  without  incident.  RAF  night  fighters  and  intrud- 
ers furnished  escort  and  attacked  enemy  guns  and  searchlights,  while 
British  Stirlings  dropped  Window  to  simulate  the  movements  of  air- 
borne serials  into  an  area  well  south  of  that  in  which  the  drop  was 
to  take  place.  There  were  no  encounters  with  enemy  aircraft  during 
the  operation.  However,  after  the  enemy  coast  had  been  crossed,  diffi- 
culties swiftly  multiplied.  German  radio  gave  warning  of  large  for- 
mations of  planes  northwest  of  Cherbourg  by  2354  hours  on  5 June. 
It  may  or  it  may  not  have  been  heeded,4  but  whatever  the  extent  of 
surprise  achieved,  only  the  leading  planes  of  any  formation  escaped 
continuous  and  heavy  antiaircraft  fire  as  they  flew  inland.  Fog  and 
cloud  made  visual  observation  uncertain.  Formations  tended  to  break 
up,  and  even  the  trained  pathfinders  experienced  difficulty  in  identify- 
ing their  drop  targets.  Parties  dropped  on  two  zones  west  of  the  Mer- 
deret  could  not  mark  them  effectively  with  lights  owing  to  the  pres- 
ence of  the  enemy,  and  no  matter  how  well  the  zones  were  marked, 
the  main  drops  (made  between  0016  and  0404  hours)  were  generally 
scattered.  A few  planes,  uncertain  of  their  target’s  location  on  their 
first  run,  circled  back  and  dropped  accurately,  but  others  unloaded 
too  soon  or  overshot  their  marks.  There  were  gross  errors.  Yet  some 
serials  dropped  accurate  concentrations  and  a ground  observer  noted 
that  the  gliders  accomplished  “little  short  of  a miracle,”  since  they  had 
encountered  heavy  enemy  fire  before  making  hazardous  landings  on 
small  and  obstructed  fields.  Glider  reinforcement  on  the  afternoon  of 
D-day  and  on  the  morning  of  D plus  1 had  to  land  in  an  area  where 
battle  was  already  raging. 

Losses  in  flight  overland  and  from  enemy  fire  at  the  time  of  landing 
added  to  the  prevailing  confusion  among  the  paratroopers,  while  Nor- 
mandy hedgerows  multiplied  their  problems.  The  confusion  of  the 
attacking  forces  was  not  reduced,  though  it  was  in  some  measure  off- 
set, by  the  fact  that  the  scattered  drops  confused  the  enemy  as  well, 

188 


NORMANDY 


both  as  to  the  extent  of  the  operation  and  its  objective.  Dispersion  was 
real— only  2,500  of  the  6,600  men  of  101st  Airborne  were  under  uni- 
fied control  at  the  end  of  D-day,  and  two  regiments  of  the  8 2d  had 
been  widely  scattered  in  marshy  ground.  But  in  spite  of  dispersion 
many  vital  missions  had  been  accomplished,  often  by  small  and  mixed 
units  resolutely  led.  The  bad  drops  of  some  units  of  the  82d  allowed 
the  coveted  area  west  of  the  Merderet  to  remain  under  enemy  domina- 
tion, but  other  elements  of  the  same  division,  exceedingly  well 
dropped,  were  able  to  assemble  rapidly  and  take  Ste.-Mere-£glise,  on 
the  northern  flank,  by  0430.  All  four  exits  from  the  causeways  across 
the  inundations  west  of  UTAH  beach  were  secured  by  early  after- 
noon, and  the  southern  flank  of  the  invasion  area  was  reasonably  se- 
cure even  if  all  the  desired  bridgeheads  over  the  Douve  had  not  been 
won. 

Such  was  the  result  of  the  airborne  operation  on  D-day.  Many  of 
the  difficulties  encountered  had  been  foreseen  and  accepted.  The  plan, 
resolutely  adhered  to  by  Eisenhower  on  30  May,  called  for  a night 
drop  on  a defended  area  studded  with  organized  positions  and  was 
undertaken  only  because  the  supreme  commander  rated  it  essential  to 
the  success  of  the  UTAH  beach  landings.*  Together  with  the  closely 
related  missions  on  D plus  1,  the  operation  included  a total  of  1,606 
sorties  by  aircraft  and  512  by  gliders,  with  losses  of  41  and  9,  respec- 
tively. There  was  instant  relief  when  it  became  known  that  losses  were 
far  below  what  the  Allied  air  commander  had  feared  they  might 
be,  and  Leigh-Mallory  was  quick  to  admit  the  error  of  his  own  esti- 
mate and  to  congratulate  Eisenhower  on  the  wisdom  of  his  difficult 
decision  of  30  May.5  Considered  judgments  agree  that  “the  success  of 
the  Utah  assault  could  not  have  been  achieved  so  conspicuously 
without  the  work  of  the  airborne  forces.”6 

As  paratroopers  hit  the  silk  and  gliders  cut  loose  over  the  Cherbourg 
peninsula  in  the  early  hours  of  6 June  1944,  ground  crews  on  scores  of 
British  airfields  readied  their  planes  for  other  tasks  of  no  less  critical 
importance.  Striped  invasion  markings  on  the  fuselages  and  wings  of 
the  aircraft  signified  the  nature  of  the  missions  they  were  about  to  per- 
form—air  cover  for  seaborne  forces  and  for  the  invasion  area;  air  sup- 
port for  the  assault  itself. 

Continuous  cover  of  the  vast  seaborne  armada  and  of  the  beaches 
themselves  was  furnished  exactly  as  planned.  The  Eighth  and  Ninth 

* See  above,  p.  146. 


189 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


Air  Forces  concentrated  their  P-38’s  on  the  protection  of  the  great 
convoys  moving  across  the  Channel  toward  Normandy;  as  the  assault 
forces  went  ashore,  the  RAF  furnished  the  low  and  Quesada’s  IX 
Fighter  Command  the  high  cover  over  the  beaches.7  Not  only  were 
covering  operations  successful  but  they  proved  amazingly  uneventful. 
Three  FW- 190’s  chased  off  by  convoy  cover  were  the  only  enemy 
aircraft  sighted  by  covering  formations  during  the  day,  and  not- until 
after  nightfall,  when  twenty-two  enemy  planes  attacked  shipping, 
was  an  Allied  vessel  touched  by  air  attack.  Even  then  the  damage 
was  slight.  An  early-morning  offensive  sweep  (Operation  FULL 
HOUSE)  beyond  the  periphery  of  the  invasion  area  conducted  by 
VIII  Fighter  Command  had  encountered  no  opposition.8  So  effective 
had  been  the  preparatory  work  of  the  Allied  air  forces  that  the  great- 
est amphibious  operation  of  history  could  be  staged  without  challenge 
from  the  enemy  air  force. 

A masterly  pre-dawn  assembly  had  set  up  the  Eighth  Air  Force’s 
three  bombardment  divisions  for  their  planned  strikes  on  coastal  bat- 
teries and  shore  defenses— chiefly  those  concentrated  on  OMAHA  and 
the  British  beaches— together  with  chokepoints  in  Caen.  For  the  mo- 
ment, the  role  of  the  heavies  was  that  of  close  support,  and  since  their 
number  was  so  great  and  their  attack  was  to  be  delivered  in  waves, 
the  take-offs  ranged  from  0155  to  0529  hours.  Weather  forecasts  in- 
dicated that  bombing  must  be  on  instruments  through  overcast.  It  was, 
therefore,  provided  that  the  last  bombs  would  be  dropped  no  later 
than  ten  minutes  before  the  touchdowns  and,  in  the  interest  of  greater 
safety  and  with  Eisenhower’s  approval,  pathfinder  bombardiers  were 
ordered  to  delay  up  to  thirty  seconds  after  the  release  point  showed 
on  their  scopes  before  dropping.  The  danger  of  shorts  was  stressed  in 
all  briefings.  A total  of  1,083  °f  the  1,361  B-iy’s  and  B-24’s  dispatched 
on  this  first  mission  attacked,  flying  in  at  right  angles  to  the  beaches  in 
formations  of  six  squadrons  abreast  with  H2X  pathfinders  in  the  lead. 
With  the  loss  of  only  a single  plane  to  enemy  action  they  dropped 
2,944  tons  °f  bombs,  largely  with  instantaneous  fuzes  to  avoid  heavy 
cratering  which  might  impede  motorized  movement  on,  and  inland 
from,  the  beaches. 

For  a moment,  it  had  seemed  that  low  cloud  might  force  the  Eighth, 
better  provided  than  were  other  forces  for  nonvisual  bombing,  to  un- 
dertake the  missions  originally  assigned  to  IX  Bomber  Command 
against  targets  in  the  UTAH  area.  However,  Brig.  Gen.  Samuel  E. 

190 


•EA6AY  MEM 


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THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


Anderson  sought,  and  received,  authority  to  bomb  visually  under  the 
3,500-foot  ceiling,  and  the  project  to  divert  the  heavies  from  Caen  was 
abandoned.  Accordingly,  the  mediums  took  ofF  between  the  hours  of 
0343  and  0500,  flying  in  boxes  of  eighteen  planes  each.  Because  of 
continuing  overcast  the  attacks  went  in  at  levels  ranging  from  3,500 
to  7,000  feet.  Attacks  on  outlying  targets  began  at  0517  hours,  but 
those  on  the  UTAH  beach  targets  were  concentrated  between  0605 
and  0624  hours.  The  278  aircraft  dropped  about  550  tons.  Meanwhile, 
fighter-bombers  of  IX  Fighter  Command  struck  at  their  assigned  tar- 
gets: 33  planes  bombed  coastal  batteries  while  129  others  attacked 
transportation  targets,  chiefly  in  the  Cherbourg  peninsula. 

Accurate  assessment  of  the  effectiveness  of  these  attacks  is  impos- 
sible. Earlier  bombardment  of  some  targets,  naval  and  ground  artillery 
fire  on  D-day  and  after,  clearing  operations,  and  inconclusive  strike 
photographs  frustrated  later  investigators.  Fighter-bombers  are  known 
to  have  hit  and  destroyed  the  road  bridges  at  Etienville,  but  they  did 
little  damage  to  the  battery  at  Maisy,  and  elsewhere  the  evidence  is  lim- 
ited to  the  pilots’  own  inevitably  indefinite  claims.9  Where  the  effects  of 
part  of  the  mediums’  effort  on  UTAH  beach  could  be  later  followed, 
35  per  cent  of  the  bombs  was  reported  to  have  fallen  to  seaward  of 
high-water  mark  but  43  per  cent 'within  300  feet  of  their  targets.10 
The  deliberately  cautious  method  of  bomb  release  adopted  by  the 
American  heavies— only  one  instance  of  short  bombing  was  reported 
and  it  proved  harmless— caused  their  main  concentrations  to  fall  from 
a few  hundred  yards  up  to  three  miles  inland.  An  unexpected  dividend 
was  paid  in  the  shape  of  detonated  mine  fields,  but  the  beachlines  from 
OMAHA  east  were  left  untouched.  It  is  now  known  that  the  enemy 
had  been  forced  to  withdraw  the  threatening  batteries  at  Morsalines, 
Sf.-Martin-de-Varreville,  and  Pointe  du  Hoe  because  of  previous  air 
bombardment.11  As  for  the  batteries  actually  attacked  on  D-day,  they 
offered  no  evidence  of  guns  destroyed— a result  which  had  been  pre- 
dicted by  air  commanders  earlier.*  Army  reports  of  fire  from  German 
batteries  falling  on  the  beaches  refer  in  general,  however,  to  batteries 
sited  well  inland  and  not  subjected  to  air  attack  immediately  prior  to 
the  assault. 

The  cost  of  taking  OMAHA  made  inevitable  the  keen  disappoint- 
ment of  V Corps  that  the  beach  had  not  been  softened  by  air  action, 
and  some  of  the  resulting  criticism  was  sharp.12  But  the  prior  agree- 

* Sec  above,  pp.  167-68,  170. 

192 


N O R M A N D Y 


ment  on  the  necessity  for  avoiding  all  risk  of  short  bombing  provides 
an  obvious  explanation,  and  it  seems  fair  to  insist  that  the  air  forces 
had  realized  their  expectation  of  contributing  heavily  to  the  demoral- 
ization of  enemy  garrisons  and  to  the  destruction  of  their  communica- 
tions. The  combined  sea  and  air  bombardment,  which  German  prison- 
ers rated  as  worse  than  anything  they  had  experienced  on  the  eastern 
front,  appears  to  have  produced  both  of  these  results.  And  if  German 
morale  was  shattered  by  the  sustained  bombardment,  to  which  air 
made  its  signal  contribution,  that  of  our  own  troops  was  heightened. 
Everywhere,  save  on  the  beaches  themselves,  there  was  evidence  of 
air’s  interest  in  and  protection  of  them.  “The  moral  effect  was  perhaps 
of  greater  value  than  [the]  material  results.”13 

Since  the  war  it  has  become  the  fashion  to  give  the  infantryman 
more  of  the  credit  he  so  richly  deserves  and  at  times  to  deprecate  the 
air  arm,  perhaps  in  revulsion  against  earlier  extravagant  claims.  But  by 
whatever  standards  the  Normandy  landings  be  judged,  the  simple  fact 
remains:  their  success  with  moderate  losses  was  possible  only  because 
of  the  absolute  air  domination  won  by  the  AAF  and  RAF  in  the 
months  before  D-day. 

The  first  American  air  attacks  on  D-day  merely  marked  the  begin- 
ning of  tactical  air  action.  Throughout  that  day  both  United  States 
air  forces  were  tactical,  and  both  engaged  in  an  all-out  effort.  After 
dropping  warning  leaflets  for  the  benefit  of  the  French  population, 
528  of  the  Eighth’s  heavies  were  dispatched  against  chokepoints  in 
towns  such  as  Thury  Harcourt,  St.-Lo,  and  Caen  in  the  immediate 
vicinity  of  the  assault  area,  but  target-obscuring  cloud,  coupled  with 
the  lack  of  pathfinders,  caused  all  save  three  groups  to  return  their 
bombs  to  base.  A third  mission  saw  fifty-six  B-24’s  drop  on  Caen, 
where  the  destruction  caused  by  this  and  other  attacks  left  only  a 
single  bridge  over  the  Orne  intact  and  thus  delayed  the  attack  of  the 
German  21st  Panzer  Division  upon  the  British  just  west  of  that  river. 
The  fourth  and  final  mission  of  the  Eighth  again  sought  out  transpor- 
tation targets  proximate  to  the  assault  area,  ranging  from  Coutances  in 
the  west  to  Lisieux  in  the  cast,  which  over  550  aircraft  bombed.14 
IX  Bomber  Command  operated  feverishly,  far  exceeding  its  best  pre- 
vious rate  of  performance,  with  many  crews  flying  two  missions.15 
Coastal  batteries  on  both  flanks  of  the  invasion  area  and  chokepoints 
in  towns  such  as  Falaise  in  the  British  and  Valognes  and  Carentan 
in  the  American  zone  were  hit  by  the  mediums,  while  in  pursuance  of 


193 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

the  continuing  attack  on  transportation  targets  they  bombed  four 
freight  yards  east  of  the  Seine.  In  like  fashion,  VIII  Fighter  Command 
followed  FULL  HOUSE  by  STUD  and  ROYAL  FLUSH-opera- 
tions  designed  to  interfere  with  enemy  ground  movements  and  to 
smash  any  action  by  the  GAF.  Moving  transport  was  hit,  and  claims 
showed  twenty-four  enemy  planes  destroyed  in  the  air  and  four  on 
the  ground.18  Second  TAF  was  similarly  active  in  its  area  of  respon- 
sibility. 

With  an  equal  accent  on  the  strenuous  life,  IX  Fighter  Command 
began  its  long  career  of  close  support  immediately  after  flying  its 
planned  missions  on  D-day.  As  air  support  parties  began  to  function, 
ground  commanders  were  quick  to  make  their  needs  known;  the  com- 
bined control  center  at  Uxbridge  received  thirteen  requests  for  air 
support  before  the  day  was  out.  Unavailability  of  aircraft,  weather,  or 
the  late  hour  caused  five  of  these  requests  to  be  refused,  but  the  re- 
maining eight  led  to  eleven  missions.  Gun  emplacements  in  the  Isigny, 
Carentan,  and  Maisy  areas,  from  which  fire  was  being  directed  against 
the  beaches,  were  hit  as  were  transportation  targets.  If  a transport 
column,  the  requested  target,  was  not  found,  a railway  train  was,  and 
promptly  strafed.  One  call  for  an  artillery-adjustment  mission  was 
answered.17  This  first  day’s  experience  disclosed  that  the  control 
mechanism  centered  at  Uxbridge,  however  logically  it  may  have  been 
planned,  was  too  involved  in  operation  for  speedy  provision  of  air 
support.  Accordingly,  the  plan  was  revised  to  the  extent  that  air  alert 
squadrons  were  placed  at  the  disposal  of  the  air  representative  on 
board  the  Ancon , headquarters  ship  anchored  off  OMAHA  beach. 
On  the  basis  of  intercepted  reports  of  air  reconnaissance  or  the  radioed 
requests  of  air  support  parties  on  shore,  he  was  able  speedily  to  lay  on 
armed  reconnaissance  of  areas  and  quick  strikes  against  pinpointed 
targets  by  messages  to  “Hoover,”  “Skylark,”  “Whisky,”  or  “Killjoy,” 
leaders  in  the  air  overhead.18 

The  D-day  effort  of  the  U.S.  air  forces  was  unprecedented  in  its 
concentration  and  phenomenal  in  its  size.  Exclusive  of  contributing 
flights  to  determine  weather,  drop  leaflets,  or  continue  essential  recon- 
naissance, 8,722  aircraft  were  dispatched  by  the  Eighth  and  Ninth  Air 
Forces.  Losses  for  the  day,  which  were  concentrated  in  the  VIII  and 
IX  Fighter  Commands  and  included  losses  attributed  to  flak  as  well  as 
to  air  combat,  totaled  seventy-one  planes.19  Claims  for  enemy  aircraft 
destroyed  (a  modest  total  of  thirty-three)  gave  still  more  striking  em- 


194 


NORMANDY 


plusis  to  the  slight  opposition  put  up  by  the  German  Air  Force,  even 
in  areas  lying  well  back  from  the  landing  beaches. 

A confused  mass  of  German  evidence  discloses  that  the  GAF  on 
the  western  front  was  a negligible  force,  particularly  in  respect  to 
fighters.  Luftflotte  3 existed,  with  Jagdkorps  II  and  Fliegerkorps  II  as 
its  conspicuous  tactical  units.  They  early  learned  of  the  invasion  for, 
despite  the  restrictions  imposed  on  their  warning  system  by  Allied 
bombings,  the  activity  of  American  planes  seeking  weather  data  and 
the  assembling  of  American  heavies  in  the  London  area  were  reported 
late  on  D minus  1 . These  reports  were  followed  by  information  that 
the  invasion  was  under  way,  which  Fliegerkorps  II  received  at  its 
Compiegne  headquarters  by  0800  hours  on  6 June.  But  Fliegerkorps 
II  had  no  operational  units.  Planes  from  the  reserve  in  Germany  were 
on  their  way,  but  became  badly  scattered  and  reduced  in  number  be- 
cause of  their  pilots’  incompetence.  OKL  {Oberkommando  der  Luft- 
waffe) had  promised  that  ten  wings  would  be  provided  for  Luftflotte 
3 to  use  against  invasion  targets  when  the  landings  came,  but  no  rein- 
forcements appeared  until  D plus  2 or  later  and  the  promised  total 
was  never  furnished.  German  air  commanders  rated  it  essential  to 
catch  their  enemy  in  the  act  of  invasion,  just  as  their  ground  com- 
manders were  convinced  that  the  invaders  must  be  defeated  on  the 
coast  in  the  first  twenty-four  hours  of  the  invasion  period.20  But  Ger- 
man statistics,  with  characteristic  lack  of  agreement,  give  Jagdkorps 
II  on  D-day  as  many  as  1 2 1 and  as  few  as  50  fighters  operational.  In 
either  case  the  total  is  pitifully  low.  Furthermore,  the  efficiency  of 
these  fighters  was  greatly  reduced  because  of  the  general  necessity  to 
use  damaged  or  hastily  constructed  fields  remote  from  the  battle  front, 
thanks  to  repeated  Allied  bombings  of  permanent  airfield  installations. 
Under  such  circumstances,  German  statements  that  only  twelve 
fighter-bomber  missions  were  mounted  on  D-day,  with  all  save  two 
forced  to  jettison  their  bombs  and  fight  before  arrival  in  the  battle 
area,  or  that  the  GAF  attempted  only  250  sorties  against  the  landings, 
become  fully  credible.  Eventually  reinforcements  arrived.  But  many 
of  the  new  and  inexperienced  pilots  had  difficulty  in  finding  their 
bases  on  returning  from  missions,  and  even  when  successful,  they 
arrived  in  “badly  plucked  condition.”  Combat  losses  continually 
attenuated  the  Luftwaffe’s  resources.21 

There  had  been  errors  in  the  planning  of  German  aircraft  produc- 
tion, and  the  Luftwaffe  had  been  forced  to  fight  on  the  Russian  and 


*95 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


Italian  as  well  as  on  the  western  front,  but  the  Allied  strategic  bomb- 
ing offensives  probably  merit  chief  credit  for  the  enfeebled  condition 
of  the  GAF  on  D-day.  A continuing  and  mounting  effort  had  forced 
the  Luftwaffe  to  concentrate  in  home  territory  and  to  fight  costly 
battles  against  RAF  Bomber  Command  by  night  and  the  heavies  of  the 
Eighth  Air  Force  by  day— the  latter  increasingly  assisted  by  their  “lit- 
tle brothers”  of  VIII  Fighter  Command  and  the  Ninth  Air  Force  in 
recent  months.  Systematic  attacks  on  enemy  airfields  and  communi- 
cations had  added  to  the  attrition  imposed  on  the  GAF  and  completed 
the  preparation  for  invasion,  with  the  result  that  there  were  no  great 
air  battles  to  be  fought  on  D-day.  Instead,  the  Allies  displayed  an 
overwhelming  and  universally  acknowledged  air  superiority  in  evi- 
dence of  battles  already  fought  and  won.  “Where  is  the  Luftwaffe?” 
as  General  Arnold  with  pardonable  pride  later  declared,22  would  be 
a question  constantly  on  the  lips  of  the  Wehrmacht  from  D-day 
onward. 


Close  Support  on  the  Beachheads 

As  the  Battle  of  the  Beachhead  continued  to  rage  from  6 June  to  24 
July,  American  air  commanders  were  mindful  of  the  third-priority 
mission  assigned  to  tactical  air  forces  by  FM  100-20:  “To  participate 
in  a combined  effort  of  the  air  and  ground  forces,  in  the  battle  area,  to 
gain  objectives  on  the  immediate  front  of  the  ground  forces.”  The 
need  for  such  participation  was  particularly  great  in  the  OMAHA  area. 
By  the  end  of  D-day  the  stiffest  sort  of  fighting  had  carried  penetra- 
tions at  most  a mile  and  a half  inland.  Schedules  for  the  landing  of 
supplies  and  supporting  weapons  were  in  arrears,  juncture  with  other 
beachheads  had  not  been  effected,  and  the  situation  seemed  precarious. 
It  was  essential  that  the  beach  be  placed  beyond  enemy  artillery  range, 
that  room  be  won  for  maneuver,  and  that  the  Allied  beachheads  be 
linked  up.23 

Late  on  D-day,  Maj.  Gen.  Leonard  T.  Gerow,  commanding  V 
Corps,  requested  “continuous  fighter  bomber  support  to  search  out 
and  attack  enemy  artillery  firing  on  beaches,”24  and  Quesada  tele- 
phoned from  the  Normandy  shore  further  to  inform  the  Ninth  and  his 
own  group  commanders  of  the  nature  and  significance  of  the  mission. 
Since  the  front  was  fluid  and  knowledge  of  the  enemy’s  exact  location 
was  limited,  no  effort  could  be  made  to  apply  air  power  directly  to 
the  front  lines  with  pinpointed  targets  assigned.  Instead,  with  the 

196 


NORMANDY 


bomb  line  fixed  on  the  A ure  River,  which  parallels  rhe  coast  between 
Isigny  and  Bayeux  at  a distance  of  from  two  to  five  miles  inland,  IX 
TAG  was  directed  to  provide  planes  to  conduct  continuous  armed 
reconnaissance  of  the  area  Aure  River-Bayeux-Airel  in  squadron 
strength  from  0600  until  2230  hours  on  7 June.  The  ensuing  action  in- 
volved 467  fighter-bomber  sorties  in  the  course  of  3 5 missions  flown 
by  the  365th,  366th,  and  368th  Groups,  most  of  whose  squadrons  flew 
four  missions  in  the  course  of  a long  and  hectic  day.  The  cost  was  thir- 
teen aircraft,  with  two  pilots  saved.  Individual  squadrons  were  in  the 
air  from  two  to  three  hours,  but  the  distance  separating  their  English 
bases  from  the  battle  area  restricted  the  actual  time  over  target  of  ap- 
proximately half  of  the  squadrons  to  less  than  an  hour.  In  only  two 
reported  cases  did  the  headquarter’s  ship  direct  attacks  on  specific  tar- 
gets; the  balance  were  upon  those  selected  by  squadron  leaders.  For 
the  most  part  the  targets  were  armor  and  trucks  on  roads  and  troop 
concentrations  in  Cerisy  and  Balleroy  forests,  but  five  batteries,  which 
this  day  constituted  priority  targets,  were  spotted  and  attacked.25 

On  this  as  on  other  days  until  1 2 June,  when  OMAHA  beachhead 
had  been  driven  inland  fifteen  to  twenty  miles  and  linked  with  those 
to  east  and  west,  Army  requests  were  few,  for  the  front  remained 
fluid  and  communications  were  difficult.  Weather  blocked  some  air 
operations  on  8 June  and  eliminated  them  on  the  9th.  But  whenever 
possible  air  continued  its  close  support.26  Thirteen  minutes  after  the 
forward  controller  directed  a squadron  overhead  to  attack  a battery 
holding  up  the  Rangers  on  7 June,  the  target  was  reported  hit.  Under 
the  same  control,  crossroads  near  Port-en-Bessin  were  bombed  on  8 
June;  that  very  day  contact  was  made  between  American  and  British 
ground  forces  in  that  area.27  Armed  reconnaissance  by  fighter- 
bombers  continued  to  blast  enemy  positions  and  movement  by  road 
and  rail  with  such  effect  that  a German  soldier  was  warranted  in  writ- 
ing home  that  “the  American  fliers  are  chasing  us  like  hares,”  while  the 
commander  of  Panzer  Lehr  Division  later  described  the  road  from 
Vire  to  Beny  Bocage  as  a “Jabo  Rennstrecke”  (a  fighter-bomber 
racecourse)  ,28 

While  the  situation  on  the  OMAHA  beachhead  was  still  serious  IX 
Bomber  Command  struck  at  bridges  and  road  chokepoints  in  towns 
proximate  to  the  front  lines,  such  as  Caen,  Isigny,  and  Aunay  sur 
Odon.  General  Montgomery  commended  the  8 June  attack  on  Caen 
bridges,  but  though  bombings  filled  the  streets  of  towns  with  rubble 


197 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


the  effect  upon  the  enemy  was  small,  since  detours  were  easily  estab- 
lished.29 In  the  Folligny  freight  yards,  however,  the  full  weight  of  the 
mediums’  attack  of  7 June  fell  on  two  troop  trains  filled  with  young 
and  inexperienced  troops.  Their  loss  of  approximately  500  killed  and 
more  than  that  number  of  wounded  was  enough  to  have  shattered 
their  morale.30 

At  the  end  of  D-day  the  UTAH  beachhead  was  reasonably  secure, 
although  all  objectives  had  not  been  reached.  The  VII  Corps  advance 
south  to  capture  the  key  town  of  Carentan  and  make  a firm  junction 
with  V Corps  was  successfully  completed  by  1 2 June.  A simultaneous 
push  to  the  north  secured  high  command  on  Quineville  ridge  by  the 
14th,  while  four  days  later  a drive  westward  had  carried  across  the 
peninsula  to  the  coast  at  Barneville.31  Except  when  weather  interfered, 
the  air  forces  gave  consistent  support.32  Fighter-bombers  silenced  a 
troublesome  battery  at  Maisy  on  D plus  1 , and  between  that  date  and 
17  June  attacked  fifteen  gun  positions  in  the  northern  Cotentin.  Evi- 
dence of  their  effect  is,  as  always  in  such  cases,  difficult  to  obtain,  but 
the  Army  rated  those  at  Quineville  and  Crisbecq  successful.33  Early 
attacks  on  near-by  bridges  and  constant  surveillance  of  roads  leading 
into  Carentan  helped  to  force  the  German  commander  to  call  for  air 
supply  which  came  too  late  to  save  the  town.34  Air  likewise  assisted  in 
the  taking  of  Montebourg  station,  Pont-l’Abbe,  and  Quineville.35 
Fleeting  targets  were  frequently  hit  and  heavy  casualties  inflicted, 
even  though  later  investigations  showed  the  pilots’  claims  to  be  exces- 
sive.36 Moreover,  at  the  very  moment  when  the  German  Seventh 
Army  was  broadcasting  Hitler’s  order  that  “the  Fortress  of  Cher- 
bourg must  be  held  at  all  costs,”  the  commander  of  the  German  77th 
Division  was  killed  by  roving  fighter-bombers  as  he  struggled  to  direct 
the  escape  of  his  troops  to  the  south.37  Mediums  of  IX  Bomber  Com- 
mand were  directed  to  support  ground  action  by  attacks  on  Cotentin 
road  centers,  where  results  were  devastating  but  tactically  so  unim- 
portant that  their  “deeper  significance”  remained  a puzzle  to  the 
enemy.  Defense  installations  were  also  accurately  struck,  but  later  sur- 
veys disclosed  that  not  even  2,000-pound  GP  bombs  materially  dam- 
aged their  heavy  cement  structures.38 

In  pursuance  of  orders  received  on  13  June,  V Corps  limited  its 
offensive  action  to  aggressive  patrolling  after  the  fall  of  Carentan.  But 
the  offensive  of  VII  Corps  was  sustained,  and  on  19  June,  Maj.  Gen.  J. 
Lawton  Collins  opened  the  drive  on  Cherbourg,  whose  value  as  a port 

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NORMANDY 


of  debarkation  was  heightened  by  the  Channel  storm  which  broke  in 
full  fury  that  same  day.  Progress  toward  the  German  defense  perim- 
eter, anchored  on  high  ground  well  provided  with  permanent  and 
field  fortifications,  was  rapid;  by  the  evening  of  2 1 June  it  had  been 
reached  throughout  its  length  and  crossed  at  points  on  the  east.  The 
first  phase  of  the  attack  was  over.  The  second  and  final  phase  was 
scheduled  to  begin  on  the  2 2d.39 

The  Drive  to  Cherbourg 

It  was  in  connection  with  preparations  for  the  final  assault  on  Cher- 
bourg that  Army  made  its  first  call  for  a major  air  support  project 
since  D-day.  Such  an  action  had  been  foreshadowed  on  the  17th, 
when  Bradley,  commanding  the  U.S.  First  Army,  in  conference  with 
Brereton  indicated  his  desire  for  a special  application  of  air  in  the 
forthcoming  drive.  His  expressed  thoughts  were  confined  to  the  sug- 
gestion of  some  signal  demonstration  by  air,  to  be  followed,  for  morale 
effect,  by  leaflet-dropping.  Tentative  arrangements  were  formulated 
on  the  continent  in  conference  among  Bradley,  Collins,  and  Quesada, 
while  in  England  A-2’s  and  A~3’s  searched  the  files  for  information  on 
enemy  positions  around  Cherbourg  and  Brereton,  anxious  to  conserve 
his  fighter-bombers  for  the  impending  operations,  fought  off  requests 
for  their  use  as  escorts.  When  American  air  and  ground  commanders 
met  on  the  continent  on  the  21st,  the  possibility  of  naval  cooperation 
was  ruled  out,  Spaatz’s  offer  of  his  heavies  was  refused  on  the  ground 
that  there  was  no  “crust”  to  break  through,  and  tentative  arrangements 
for  air  support  were  reconsidered  in  the  light  of  Collins’  request  for 
“air  pulverization”  of  an  area  of  some  twenty  miles.  The  purpose 
would  be  not  so  much  the  direct  preparation  for  ground  advance  as 
demoralization  of  the  enemy  and  disruption  of  his  communications.40 

Brereton  returned  to  Uxbridge  at  approximately  1400  hours  on  21 
June.  Time  was  of  the  essence,  and  conferences  immediately  followed 
with  AEAF,  Second  TAF,  and  Ninth  Air  Force  Advanced  Head- 
quarters, all  of  which  were  involved  in  the  projected  operation.  A 
relatively  simple  scheme  based  on  area  saturation  was  adopted,  despite 
grave  misgivings  as  to  the  capabilities  of  fighter-bombers  in  such  an 
operation.  As  fast  as  decisions  became  fixed,  air  units  were  informed  in 
order  that  they  might  promptly  begin  detailed  planning,  and  details 
relevant  to  ground  action  were  forwarded  to  the  continent  with  equal 
expedition  as  planning  progressed.  Between  0200  and  0300  on  22  June 


199 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


the  over-all  plan  was  completed,  and  at  dawn  it  was  flown  to  the  con- 
tinent by  Brig.  Gens.  Richard  E.  Nugent  and  David  M.  Schlatter,  who 
explained  it  to  the  ground  commanders  concerned.  It  should  be  em- 
phasized, because  the  procedure  stands  in  marked  contrast  to  that  fol- 
lowed in  later  air  support  planning,  that  no  Army  representative  was 
present  at  Hillingdon  House  as  the  plans  were  firmed.41 

H-hour  had  been  fixed  as  1400  of  that  same  day,  and  beginning  at 
H minus  80  minutes  the  air  attack  went  as  scheduled  under  clearing 
skies.  Second  TAF  led  the  way  after  artillery  had  engaged  in  counter- 
battery  fire  on  enemy  flak  and  had  endeavored  to  mark  the  south  and 
west  boundaries  of  the  target  area  with  white  smoke.  Four  squadrons 
of  rocket-firing  Typhoons  and  six  of  strafing  Mustangs  delivered  their 
area  attack  flying  from  west  to  east.  Twelve  groups  of  the  Ninth’s 
fighter-bombers  followed  in  their  wake,  bombing  and  strafing  and 
striving  to  give  special  attention  to  six  pinpointed  localities.  Between 
1240  and  1355  hours  wave  after  wave  of  fighter-bombers  made  their 
attacks,  often  disappearing  into  the  dust  and  smoke  of  battle  as  they 
dived  to  levels  as  low  as  200  feet.  Time  schedules  were  rigidly  ob- 
served both  by  Second  TAF’s  squadrons  and  by  the  Ninth’s  groups. 
Some  fourteen  British  and  twenty-four  American  planes  were  lost. 
Immediately  after  H-hour  all  eleven  groups  of  IX  Bomber  Command 
swept  in  to  attack  as  many  defended  localities.  A single  bomber  was 
lost.  Altogether  557  fighter-bombers  and  396  mediums  of  the  Ninth 
Air  Force  and  1 18  aircraft  of  Second  TAF  participated  in  the  opera- 
tion. Such  enemy  planes  as  were  sighted  refused  encounter.42 

The  immediate  tactical  results  of  the  operation  were  disappointing. 
Only  a small  fraction  of  the  area  attacked  by  air  had  been  overrun  by 
0600  on  the  23  d,  but  this  included  high  ground  near  Chevres  which 
had  been  marked  for  attack  by  both  fighter-bombers  and  mediums. 
Although  ground  formations  had  been  ordered  to  withdraw  until  a 
distance  of  1,200  feet  separated  them  from  the  bomb  line,  some  units 
were  hit  by  friendly  planes.  Complaints  were  lively,  but  fortunately 
casualties  were  slight,  and  even  these  may  have  been  in  part  attribut- 
able to  the  German  trick  of  firing  smoke  shells  over  American  posi- 
tions to  confuse  the  attacking  pilots  as  to  the  bomb  line’s  location.  It 
was  evident,  furthermore,  that  ground  did  not  always  coordinate  its 
attack  properly  with  that  from  the  air,  too  great  a time  lag  being  per- 
mitted between  the  cessation  of  the  air  assault  and  the  infantry’s  ad- 
vance. In  one  case,  where  later  appraisal  of  the  mediums’  bombing  was 


200 


NORMANDY 


effected,  the  attack  of  the  410th  Bombardment  Group  completely 
demolished  an  enemy  position  containing,  among  other  guns,  four 
dual-purpose  88’s.  But  this  position  was  distant  from  the  front  lines, 
and  the  successful  bombing  could  not  immediately  affect  the  situation 
there. 

Pilots’  claims  of  neutralization  of  gun  and  machine-gun  positions 
had  justification,  but  the  major  result  of  air  action  on  22  June  was  to 
disrupt  enemy  morale.  Some  German  officers  lost  control  over  their 
men  during  the  attacks.  If  gun  emplacements  were  not  themselves  de- 
stroyed, their  apertures  were  in  instances  blocked  and  their  garrisons 
often  dazed.  At  the  time  American  division  commanders,  and  the 
corps  commander  himself,  commended  the  operation  if  only  because 
of  the  demoralization  produced  in  enemy  ranks.  A later,  and  fully 
considered,  judgment  by  VII  Corps  on  the  operation  of  22  June  states 
that  the  over-all  effect  on  enemy  morale  and  the  destruction  of  his 
communications  were  worth  while.  The  U.S.  First  Army  (FUSA) 
agreed,  but  its  report  properly  observed  that  many  points  of  resistance 
were  left  in  operation.43 

In  spite  of  disappointment  on  the  2 2d,  the  operation  against  Cher- 
bourg progressed  with  reasonable  speed.  The  last  stronghold  in  the 
city  fell  into  American  hands  on  27  June,  and  the  remaining  sparks  of 
resistance  on  the  northern  part  of  the  peninsula  were  extinguished  by 
1 July.  Missions  related  to  these  concluding  operations  were  few  in 
number.  But  it  was  becoming  increasingly  evident  that  mediums  and 
fighter-bombers  could  do  effective  work  against  specified  targets,  even 
if  the  bombs  released  on  Fort  du  Roule  by  mediums  left  its  massive 
bulk  unharmed,  and  if  others  delivered  by  dive  bombers  within  fifty 
or  seventy  feet  of  a German  gun  might  fail  to  inflict  damage.  The  ob- 
stinate defenses  at  La  Mare  es  Canards— target  for  both  mediums  and 
fighter-bombers  on  22  June  and  for  two  subsequent  dive  bombings— 
were  reduced  on  the  24th  when  units  of  the  368th  Fighter-Bomber 
Group  scored  eighteen  direct  hits  in  the  target  area  and  thereby 
helped  a final  attack  to  go  through  in  an  hour’s  time.  On  the  same  day 
Army  reported  phenomenal  bombing— twenty-three  of  twenty-four 
bombs  in  the  bull’s  eye— in  a P-47  attack  near  La  Glacerie,  and  credited 
fighter-bombers  with  assists  at  other  points.  The  concussion  produced 
by  dive  bombing  of  a fort  on  the  Cherbourg  breakwater  was  the  im- 
mediate cause  for  its  surrender  on  29  June.44 

Attacks  on  batteries  west  of  the  port  succeeded  less  well,  since  fire 


201 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

from  them  impeded  ground’s  advance  until  the  very  end,  but  batteries 
at  Laye  and  Auderville  were  hard  hit  by  mediums,  while  dive  bomb- 
ing speeded  the  occupation  of  Beaumont  Hague.45  The  later  verdict  of 
the  9th  Infantry  Division  on  these  final  air  actions  of  the  campaign  is 
pertinent.  “The  results  of  Mediums  and  Dive  Bombers  varied  from 
unsuccessful  through  very  satisfactory  to  excellent. . . . The  effects 
and  results  were  a lowering  of  enemy  morale,  and  increase  in  the 
morale  of  our  own  troops,  and  partial  to  complete  destruction  of 
enemy  positions.  Overall  results— greater  ease  and  less  loss  of  life  in 
taking  positions.”46 

The  development  during  June  of  more  flexible  controls  for  sup- 
porting operations  promised  much  for  the  future.  Air  support  opera- 
tions initially  had  been  directed  by  Ninth  Air  Force  Adv.  Hq.  at  Ux- 
bridge, subject  only  to  such  modifications  as  might  be  effected  by  the 
controller  on  board  the  Ancon*  but  on  10  June  the  70th  Fighter- 
Bomber  Wing,  based  on  the  continent,  took  over  the  control  func- 
tions hitherto  performed  on  shipboard  and  beginning  with  18  June  IX 
TAC  Adv.  Hq.,  also  on  the  far  shore,  assumed  the  major  responsibility 
for  the  direction  of  air  support.  The  latter  headquarters  filtered  ground 
requests  for  assistance,  ordered  missions  as  it  saw  fit,  and  transmitted 
to  Uxbridge  only  such  requests  as  it  could  not  meet  with  its  own 
resources.  This  development  was  possible  because  of  yeoman  work 
on  the  part  of  Ninth  Air  Force  signal  units.  A TAC  headquarters 
required  approximately  as  much  in  the  way  of  signal  installations  for 
its  strictly  tactical  purposes  as  did  an  Army  headquarters  for  purposes 
both  tactical  and  administrative.  Members  of  IX  TAC’s  signal  section 
had  landed  on  OMAHA  beach  at  the  close  of  D-day,  and  within 
twenty-four  hours  of  a delayed  and  inauspicious  start  the  first  cross- 
Channel  contact  had  been  made  by  70th  Fighter-Bomber  Wing.  More 
normal  facilities  were  available  a day  later,  and  on  9 June  a radio- 
phone channel  afforded  service  from  the  far  shore  to  IX  TAC’s  Rear 
Hq.  at  Middle  Wallop  and  to  Ninth  Air  Force  Adv.  Hq.  at  Uxbridge. 
By  the  10th,  IX  TAC  Adv.  Hq.  at  Au  Gay  had  been  provided  with 
most  of  the  essential  communications  equipment,  including  switch- 
boards and  cipher  devices,  and  on  the  following  day  the  signal  sec- 
tion of  IX  TAC  proudly  published  its  first  continental  telephone  di- 
rectory, which  included  the  numbers  of  installations  in  FUSA  Hq. 
with  which  links  had  already  been  established.47 

* See  above,  pp.  139-40. 


202 


NORMANDY 


Other  features  of  the  setup  at  IX  TAC  Advanced  offered  further 
•assistance  to  the  close  coordination  of  air  and  ground  activities.  Brad- 
ley’s headquarters  was  only  a hedgerow  removed  from  that  of  Que- 
sada,  who  took  active  command  of  IX  TAC  at  Au  Gay,  and  in  such 
an  environment  the  welding  together  of  ground  and  air  for  the 
achievement  of  a common  purpose  was  advanced  by  the  intimate  asso- 
ciation of  the  respective  commanders  and  by  the  closest  sort  of  co- 
operation between  their  intelligence  sections.  Army’s  G-2  and  G-3 
were  often  to  be  found  in  IX  TAC’s  operations  tent.  Mutual  under- 
standing and  confidence  ripened,  and  a steadily  improving  efficiency 
in  operations  was  traced  by  the  supreme  commander  to  its  source  at 
Au  Gay.4S 

Similarly,  Air  Marshal  Coningham  and  General  Brereton,  who  had 
been  associated  in  the  desert  war,#  developed  an  even  closer  relation- 
ship as  one,  detached  from  Second  TAF,  commanded  AEAF  Ad- 
vanced at  Uxbridge  and  the  other  directed  the  Ninth  from  its  ad- 
vanced headquarters  in  the  same  building.  A comparable  nexus 
brought  together  Quesada  and  Air  Vice  Marshal  Harry  Broadhurst, 
of  RAF’s  No.  83  Group.  If  for  any  reason  the  forces  of  one  were  not 
available  in  sufficient  number  when  a call  for  action  came,  the  other 
stood  ready  to  furnish  aid.  They  shared  targets  and  exchanged  intelli- 
gence information  and  operations  orders  for  the  sake  of  the  better 
briefing  of  both  British  and  American  units.  Direct  communication 
between  them  was  the  rule,  and  occasionally  the  tactical  units  of  one 
were  under  the  operational  control  of  the  other.49 

The  provision  of  continental  airfields  was  another  outstanding  de- 
velopment of  the  month.  During  the  first  days  of  the  invasion  the 
necessity  of  cross-Channel  flights  from  British  fields  had  prevented  the 
full  application  of  air’s  power,  as  was  conspicuously  true  in  connection 
with  the  fighter-bomber  missions  of  7 June.*  But  the  speedy  work  of 
IX  Engineer  Command  in  preparing  continental  strips  quickly  over- 
came this  disadvantage  and  thus  made  possible  more  prompt  dissemina- 
tion of  information  and  orders  and  a greater  number  of  daily  sorties. 
Not  only  might  a five-minute  flight  now  carry  a plane  from  field  to 
target  but  aircraft  could  operate  from  continental  bases  at  times  when 
weather  had  “socked  in”  the  airfields  of  southern  England.  Allied 

* See  Vol.  II,  17,  27-28,  34-35. 

f See  above,  p.  194,  and  for  a more  complete  account  of  the  activities  of  IX  Engineer 
Command,  see  below,  Chap.  16. 

203 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


commanders  had  desired  and  enemy  commanders  feared  this  develop- 
ment with  equal  reason.50 

Aviation  engineers  had  swarmed  ashore  with  the  assault  waves  on 
UTAH  beach  and,  despite  the  distractions  of  combat,  had  hewed  out 
an  emergency  landing  field  on  D-day.  Construction  of  more  extensive 
installations  began  almost  immediately.  The  engineers  had  occasion  to 
lament  the  fact  that  “the  phase  line  stubbornly  refused  to  operate  ac- 
cording to  plan”  and  provide  them  with  the  real  estate  requisite  for 
their  planned  construction,51  but  they  were  not  daunted  by  this  fact 
nor  by  the  requirement  to  construct  runways  longer  than  had  been 
planned  in  order  to  permit  all  fighter-bombers  to  take  off  with  full 
bomb  loads.  It  was  frequently  necessary  to  work  under  fire,  as  at 
Cretteville,  where  the  engineers  left  a hedgerow  standing  at  the  south- 
ern extremity  of  the  field  to  screen  their  bulldozers.  Beginning  on  19 
June  fighter-bomber  groups  became  operational  on  Normandy  air- 
fields, and  even  before  that  time  construction  of  a few  runways  was 
sufficiently  advanced  to  permit  their  use  for  roulement,  a plan  of  oper- 
ation under  which  the  planes  took  off  from  a base  in  England,  com- 
pleted a first  mission,  and  then  flew  one  or  more  missions  from  a con- 
tinental field  before  returning  home.  By  no  means  incidentally,  a 
transport  field  had  been  put  in  commission  back  of  OMAHA  beach 
by  8 June.*  Though  not  planned,  the  field  saw  active  service  in  the 
provision  of  high-priority  supplies  by  airlift  and  in  the  air  evacuation 
of  wounded.  The  aviation  engineers  themselves  profited,  receiving 
critical  spare  parts  by  20  June  and  on  the  27th  an  air  shipment  of  the 
first  of  5,000  rolls  of  Hessian  mat  for  runway  surfacing.52 

T he  Push  South 

Only  two  days  after  the  occupation  of  the  Cherbourg  peninsula  had 
been  completed  on  1 July,  FUSA  began  an  offensive  push  to  the 
south.  Its  objectives  were  limited  to  winning  elbow  room  and  favor- 
able ground  from  which  to  launch  the  contemplated  breakout.  VII 
and  VIII  Corps  on  the  western  flank  pressed  south  into  the  La  Haye- 
du-Puits  area  and  beyond  toward  Periers  and  Lessay,  while  farther  to 
the  east  XIX  Corps  drove  southward  to  the  high  ground  about  St.-Lo. 
The  well-emplaced  enemy  offered  stout  resistance,  making  notable  use 
of  artillery.  Stream  and  contour  lines  on  maps  showed  that  the  terrain 
was  difficult,  and  on  the  ground  these  natural  difficulties  were  infinite- 

* See  below,  p.  563. 

204 


NORMANDY 


ly  heightened  by  stout  hedgerows  which  obstructed  both  movement 
and  observation.  In  the  early  days  of  the  attack  Eisenhower,  anxious 
to  clarify  his  view  of  the  battlefield,  flew  along  the  lines  with  Quesada 
as  pilot  and  with  a fighter-bomber  escort.53 

The  operations  begun  on  3 July  continued  at  a steady  tempo  until 
the  20th.  Strongpoints,  variously  described  as  gun  or  machine-gun  po- 
sitions or  dug-in  tanks,  figured  most  prominently  among  the  targets 
which  FUSA  requested  IX  TAC  to  eliminate.  Reputed  enemy  head- 
quarters and  observation  posts  (OP’s),  moving  columns  and  troop 
concentrations,  together  with  dumps  and  bridges,  also  appeared  in  the 
lists  submitted  to  the  daily  air-ground  conference  at  Au  Gay.  The  re- 
ports of  many  of  the  missions  flown  in  response  to  such  requests,  and 
of  roving  armed  reconnaissance  as  well,  are  of  such  a nature  that  no 
very  definite  conclusions  can  be  drawn  from  them.  At  the  time  air 
felt  the  need  for  a better  evaluation  of  targets  and  for  more  exact  indi- 
cation of  their  location,64  and,  whatever  the  cause,  it  is  clear  that  many 
missions  failed  to  accomplish  their  intended  purpose.  In  other  cases, 
however,  the  evidence  is  precise  and  demonstrates  that  on  critical 
occasions  air  support  was  exceedingly  effective. 

In  the  western  area,  German  sources  report  that  air  spoiled  a coun- 
terattack by  elements  of  2d  SS  Panzer  Division  on  6 July,  and  that  on 
the  same  day  the  367th  and  474th  Fighter-Bomber  Groups  so  punished 
and  benumbed  a strongpoint’s  garrison  that  it  could  not  put  up  an 
effective  defense  against  the  American  infantry.55  Support  given  VII 
Corps  on  the  8th  drew  favorable  comment  from  Collins,  even  though 
an  attack  had  been  delivered  at  a point  on  the  fluid  front  where  no 
bomb  line  had  been  established.5C  Contemporary  enemy  comment  on 
actions  of  this  sort  is  valuable  alike  for  its  reflection  of  existing  de- 
spondency and  its  indication  of  the  major  causes  therefor.  The  war 
diary  of  the  German  Seventh  Army  records  the  situation  on  the  front 
of  LXXXIV  Corps  as  particularly  critical,  “for  enemy  artillery  and 
continual  air  attacks  against  our  troops  are  causing  heavy  losses  in  men 
and  material,  and  sooner  or  later  the  time  will  come  when  the  steady 
decrease  in  manpower  will  make  our  positions  untenable.  So  far  our 
own  fighter  planes  and  antiaircraft  artillery  have  not  been  able  to  ease 
the  pressure.”57  Attacks  on  German  headquarters  and  OP’s  in  this 
western  area  appear  to  have  been  singularly  effective.  Especially  help- 
ful was  the  destruction  of  two  church  steeples  on  high  ground  north- 
east of  Periers,  for  in  hedgerow  fighting  a good  OP  was  invaluable. 


205 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


In  the  XIX  Corps  area  north  of  St.-Lo,  as  in  that  of  VII  and  VIII 
Corps,  adverse  weather  repeatedly  hampered  ground  operations  and 
exercised  an  even  more  limiting  effect  upon  those  by  air.  The  weather 
canceled  out  all  strikes  planned  for  1 1 June,  and  when  one  urgent  re- 
quest mission  was  flown  against  a target  duly  marked  with  red 
smoke,  the  results  involved  such  danger  to  friendly  troops  that  no 
further  requests  were  made  for  the  time  being.58  An  attempted  mission 
by  two  groups  of  IX  Bomber  Command  against  St.-Lo  positions  on 
the  1 6th  resulted  in  only  two  aircraft  attacking,  but  the  mission  was  re- 
scheduled and  delivered  with  some  effect  on  the  following  day. 
Weather  was  occasionally  so  bad  that  German  troops  were  moved  in 
daylight  with  impunity.  But  these  meteorological  conditions  had  been 
anticipated.  A study  of  weather  conditions  over  a space  of  years  had 
disclosed  that  a maximum  of  thirteen  operational  days  per  month  was 
to  be  expected  in  the  Calais  area  and  only  eight  in  the  region  of 
Le  Havre.59  Moreover,  Allied  planes  repeatedly  demonstrated  a knack 
for  operating  in  bad  weather,  of  which  capacity  they  gave  an  espe- 
cially effective  display  on  the  occasion  of  the  strong  counterattack 
launched  by  Pz.  Lehr  on  1 1 June— a day  that  had  opened  with  the  can- 
cellation of  all  missions  because  of  weather. 

A rude  attack  by  fighter-bombers  already  had  interrupted  a staff 
conference  gathered  to  plan  this  enemy  thrust,  and  orders  for  daylight 
movement  of  the  necessary  forces  had  led  to  the  destruction  from  the 
air  of  a number  of  self-propelled  guns  and  trucks— particularly  the 
tank  trucks  for  which  Allied  fighter-bombers  had  a special  affinity.  In 
the  attack  itself,  where  American  artillery  and  tank  destroyers  played 
a most  notable  role,  the  German  commander,  who  previously  had  ob- 
served with  amazement  that  American  aircraft  operated  in  unfavor- 
able weather,  was  given  convincing  proof  of  their  skill  during  three 
consecutive  missions  flown  into  the  threatened  area— that  by  the  366th 
Fighter-Bomber  Group  being  laid  on  under  a i,ooo-foot  ceiling. 
Claims  for  twenty-two  tanks  destroyed  were  fully  substantiated  by 
Army  reports  at  the  time  and  by  later  survey.  The  enemy’s  counter- 
attack was  stopped  in  the  vicinity  of  Pont  Hebert  and  Le  Desert  after 
an  entire  panzer  battalion  had  been  engulfed,  and  Army  was  left  in  a 
mood  to  forgive  the  Allied  strafing  of  a knot  of  its  own  tanks  isolated 
in  advance  of  the  front  lines.60 

On  15  June,  with  the  infantry  slugging  its  way  along  the  Martin- 
ville  Ridge  in  a final  stage  of  the  drive,  air  sent  several  helpful  strikes, 

206 


NORMANDY 


and  on  the  following  day,  when  signs  of  another  German  counter- 
attack were  observed  at  about  2000  hours,  the  Army  requested  air’s 
support.  Isolated  American  infantrymen  marked  their  lines  with 
panels  or  their  own  undershirts,  and  the  404th  Fighter-Bomber  Group, 
briefed  in  air  by  the  air  support  party  (ASP),  delivered  a close-in 
attack  at  2105  hours  with  marked  effect.  Maj.  Gen.  Charles  H.  Corlett, 
commanding  XIX  Corps,  expressing  his  appreciation  for  air  strikes 
delivered  on  time  and  on  target,  added  a significant  word:  “The  pres- 
ence of  our  aircraft  over  the  front  line  troops  has  an  immeasurable 
effect  upon  their  morale.  When  our  aircraft  are  over  the  front  line  the 
use  of  close  in  artillery  and  mortars  by  the  enemy  stops.”81 

On  16  and  17  June,  and  on  request,  fighter-bombers  of  the  Ninth 
attacked  bridges  over  the  Vire  in  places  proximate  to  the  battle  line. 
File  result  threatened  to  cut  off  the  German  3 5 2d  Infantry  Division 
and  blocked  the  movement  of  heavy  weapons.  Previous  to  these  at- 
tacks needed  reinforcements  for  Panzer  Lehr,  lax  in  their  march  disci- 
pline during  a daylight  movement,  had  suffered  heavy  casualties  and 
were  badly  shaken  by  a swift  bombing  and  strafing  attack.62  Relentless 
pressure  by  ground  and  valuable  strikes  by  air  had  secured  St.-Lo 
and  brought  the  Americans  to  positions  just  north  of  the  lateral  high- 
way Lessay-Periers-St.-Lo  as  the  attacks  were  slackened  in  the  period 
14-20  July  to  allow  for  the  mounting  of  the  coming  breakout. 

American  Support  of  British  Drives  on  the  Caen  Front 

Air  power  is  inherently  flexible  and,  under  centralized  command, 
capable  of  great  concentration.  “From  one  base  it  can  strike  out  at  a 
wide  variety  of  targets  over  a wide  area;  conversely,  from  widely 
separated  bases  it  can  strike  at  a single  target. . . ,”63  Operations  in  the 
Caen  area  in  July  1944  on  the  part  of  the  air  forces  under  Eisen- 
hower’s command  afforded  striking  examples  of  both  of  these  capa- 
bilities. The  British  and  Canadian  armies  had  been  held  on  the  city’s 
outskirts  by  a heavy  concentration  of  German  armor,  backed  by 
ample  antitank  artillery  and  other  defenses  of  such  strength  that 
Arnold  was  led  to  express  the  hope  that  Caen  would  not  prove  to  be 
another  Cassino.64  In  preparation  for  a major  attempt  on  8 July  to 
break  through  the  enemy’s  obstinate  defenses,  both  RAF  Bomber 
Command  and  IX  Bomber  Command  struck  at  concentrations  south 
of  the  city,  while  some  of  the  Ninth’s  mediums  blasted  Caen  bridges 
and  Second  TAF  operated  continuously  in  the  area.63  In  immediate 


207 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


preparation  for  the  8 July  attack  air  was  called  in  at  Montgomery’s 
request  and  with  Eisenhower’s  approval,  even  as  the  big  guns  of  the 
fleet  were  brought  into  play.  The  absence  of  the  GAF  had  for  some 
time  permitted  RAF’s  heavies  to  operate  in  daylight,  and  now  toward 
dusk  they  laid  down  a bomb  carpet  on  Caen  beginning  at  2150  hours 
on  7 July.  Early  on  the  8th,  five  groups  from  IX  Bomber  Command 
were  dispatched  to  add  their  weight  to  the  attack,  but  only  two  groups 
and  parts  of  two  others  were  able  to  bomb,  and  the  ground  attack 
jumped  off  at  04:0  hours  with  the  disadvantage  of  a time  lag  separat- 
ing the  assault  from  the  major  part  of  its  air  preparation.  The  strength 
of  the  enemy’s  resistance  and  heavy  cratering  produced  by  air  and 
naval  bombardment  prevented  the  full  exploitation  of  the  preparatory 
attacks,  but  the  greater  part  of  Caen  soon  fell  into  British  and  Cana- 
dian hands.  Such  were  the  results  of  Operation  CHARNWOOD.60 

Operation  GOODWOOD  of  18  July  had  as  its  purpose  a break- 
out from  Caen,  to  be  followed  by  a push  toward  Falaise,  and  like  its 
predecessor,  it  had  its  “air  prelude.”  RAF  Bomber  Command  began 
with  a bombing  attack  by  nearly  1,000  heavies  at  first  light  on  the 
1 8th;  the  Eighth  Air  Force  followed  with  571  of  its  heavies  attacking 
three  areas;  and  IX  Bomber  Command  sent  all  1 1 of  its  medium 
groups  against  five  gun  positions.  The  RAF  reported  that  its  bombing 
was  well  concentrated  and  the  Eighth  recorded  that  a moderate  per- 
centage of  its  missiles  fell  in  the  assigned  target  areas,  but  the  Ninth’s 
bombers  found  their  targets  obscured  by  the  smoke  and  dust  of  previ- 
ous bombardments  and  their  reporting  was  correspondingly  hazy.  By 
arrangement  between  the  commanders  of  Second  TAF  and  IX  TAC 
the  latter  “kept  the  ring”  throughout  this  action,  leaving  the  former 
free  to  develop  its  full  energies  in  the  battle  area.67 

Ground  forces  moved  over  the  3,000  yards  separating  them  from 
the  nearest  bomber  target  immediately  the  mediums’  attack  was  com- 
pleted. Initial  gains,  which  carried  straight  through  the  battered  enemy 
crust,  were  most  gratifying.  Most  of  the  prisoners  taken  in  the  for- 
ward positions  remained  stone-deaf  for  a period  of  twenty-four  hours 
in  consequence  of  air’s  bombardment.  But  beyond  the  crust  Allied 
armor  ran  into  a heavy  antitank  screen,  which  intelligence  had  not  re- 
ported, and  as  infantry  took  over,  the  enemy  recovered  his  capacity 
for  resistance.  Gains  were  made  up  to  seven  miles,  but  GOOD- 
WOOD’S  declared  objectives  had  not  been  reached  when  the  offen- 

208 


NORMANDY 


sivc  mired  down  in  the  heavy  rains  which  began  on  20  July.68  Both 
ground  and  air  commanders  were  concerned  that  no  more  substantial 
result  should  have  been  produced  by  the  heaviest  single  bomber  ef- 
fort of  the  Normandy  campaign,  for  a total  of  7,700  tons  had  been 
dropped  by  the  more  than  1,600  heavies  and  350  mediums  com- 
mitted.69 

Allied  leaders  might  have  been  in  some  measure  consoled  had  they 
known  of  the  German  reaction.  On  2 1 July  Field  Marshal  Gunther 
von  Kluge,  who  had  succeeded  von  Rundstedt  on  3 July,  wrote  di- 
rectly to  the  Fuehrer.  The  marked  optimism,  so  evident  upon  his  sud- 
den arrival  to  take  command  in  the  West  two  weeks  before,  had  faded. 
To  the  Fuehrer  he  reported:  “My  conference  with  the  commanders  of 
the  units  at  Caen,  held  just  after  the  last  heavy  battle,  forced  me  to 
the  conclusion  . . . that  there  is  no  way  in  which  we  could  do  battle 
with  the  all  powerful  enemy  air  forces  . . . without  being  forced  to 
surrender  territory.  Whole  armored  units  . . . were  attacked  by  ter- 
rific numbers  of  aircraft  dropping  carpets  of  bombs,  so  that  they 
emerged  from  the  churned  up  earth  with  the  greatest  difficulty,  some- 
times only  with  the  aid  of  tractors. . . . The  psychological  effect  on  the 
fighting  forces,,  especially  the  infantry, . . . bombs  raining  down  on 
them  with  all  the  force  of  elemental  nature,  is  a factor  which  must  be 
given  serious  consideration.”  His  letter  cannot  possibly  have  quieted 
the  shaken  nerves  of  Hitler,  who  on  20  July  had  himself  so  narrowly 
escaped  the  blasting  effect  of  another  type  of  bombing  effort,  and 
von  Kluge’s  parting  words  to  the  staff  conference  at  Caen  could  hard- 
ly have  proved  heartening.  “We  must  hold  our  ground,”  he  said,  “and 
if  nothing  happens  to  improve  conditions,  we  must  die  an  honorable 
death  on  the  battlefield.”70 

The  Interdiction  Program 

If  questions  had  been  raised  regarding  the  effectiveness  of  some 
parts  of  the  immediate  tactical  support  rendered  to  the  ground  forces, 
there  was  little  room  for  doubt  as  to  the  success  with  which  the  air 
forces  met  their  responsibility,  prescribed  in  FM  100-20,  “to  prevent 
the  movements  of  hostile  troops  and  supplies  into  the  theater  of  opera- 
tions or  within  the  theater.”  Indeed,  there  is  good  reason  for  believing 
that  the  Allied  air  forces  made  their  most  important  contribution  to 
victory  in  the  Battle  of  Normandy  through  the  performance  of  their 


209 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


function  of  isolating  the  battlefield  or,  to  use  the  term  more  popular 
at  the  time,  through  interdiction  of  the  lines  of  communication  upon 
which  the  enemy  depended. 

Widespread  attacks  on  the  German  transportation  system,  begun 
in  March,  had  been  with  a view  to  reducing  its  over-all  resources  and 
crippling  its  vital  functions.  In  April  and  May  other  attacks  were 
delivered  against  targets  so  specific  and  so  related  that  they  constituted 
a clear-cut  interdiction  line.*  The  targets  were  bridges.  The  intent  of 
the  attacks  upon  them  was  to  isolate  the  chosen  Normandy  battlefield, 
hence  bridges  over  the  Seine  were  of  special  moment.  But  in  the 
period  prior  to  D-day  assaults  were  directed  against  others  east  of  that 
river  as  well,  in  order  to  disguise  Allied  intentions,  and  for  the  same 
reason  the  bridges  over  the  Loire  were  not  touched.  As  mention  of  a 
general  attack  on  rail  transportation  facilities  and  the  selection  of  spe- 
cial targets  on  a river  line  suggest,  interdiction  was  a word  which 
came  to  be  used  in  both  a broad  and  a narrow  sense.  Narrowly  inter- 
preted it  involved  the  establishment  of  a definite  line  of  destruction  to 
isolate  the  battlefield  by  smashing  bridges,  viaducts,  and  other  critical 
points  on  the  battlefield’s  periphery.  Rail  bridges  over  the  Seine  from 
the  environs  of  Paris  to  Rouen,  rail  bridges  and  viaducts  in  the  Paris- 
Orleans  gap  from  Mantes  on  the  Seine  to  Orleans  on  the  Loire,  and 
Loire  bridges  from  Orleans  to  Nantes  were  the  clearly  specified  tar- 
gets here.71  The  broader  use  of  the  term  embraced  these  points  and 
added  a wide  variety  of  targets  which  were  attacked  by  the  Allied  air 
forces  with  identical  purpose.  Freight  yards  within  and  without  the 
interdiction  line  figured  as  prominently  in  planned  attacks  after  D-day 
as  before.  Attacks  on  rolling  stock,  especially  on  locomotives,  in  those 
yards  and  on  the  lines  radiating  out  from  them  received  like  accent 
in  both  periods.  Rail-cutting  was  given  heavy  emphasis  after  the  as- 
sault-cuts within  the  line  of  interdiction  being  designed  to  prevent 
movement  within  the  theater  of  operations,  those  beyond  it  to  prevent 
movement  into  it.  Supplementing  these  attacks  on  rail  transportation 
were  those  on  all  forms  of  traffic  on  the  highways  of  the  battle  area. 
All  parts  of  the  program  were  closely  interwoven.  Its  over-all  effects 
were  both  widespread  and  pervasive,  for  the  actions  producing  them 
were  long  sustained  and  on  a grand  scale.  Begun  before  D-day,  they 
continued  in  mounting  crescendo  through  June  and  July  and  into  the 
early  days  of  August  1944. 

* See  above,  pp.  149-62,  and  especially  pp.  156-62. 

2 IO 


NORMANDY 


The  American  planes  most  frequently  employed  in  executing  the 
interdiction  program  functioned  under  the  immediate  direction  of 
Ninth  Air  Force  Adv.  Hq.  at  Uxbridge,  which  retained  control  over 
interdiction  when  IX  TAC  Adv.  Hq.  took  over  the  primary  responsi- 
bility for  tactical  air  support.  The  planning  and  scheduling  of  oper- 
ations presented  a complex  problem.  Targets  differed  in  character, 
they  must  be  sought  over  a wide  area,  and  attacks  on  them  must  be 
successful.  The  program,  like  that  of  air  support,  was  given  the  high- 
est priority.  To  be  effective  it  must  be  sustained.  If  bridges  essential 
to  the  enemy  were  destroyed,  he  was  certain  to  attempt  their  repair. 
The  repairs  must  not  be  allowed  to  proceed  to  a point  where  interdic- 
tion would  be  rendered  ineffective,  and  hence  repeat  missions  were 
in  order.  Attacks  on  rails  must  be  regarded  in  the  light  of  similar  logic, 
and  since  their  repair  could  be  speedily  effected,  repeat  operations 
were  always  required.  Attacks  on  freight  yards  and  rolling  stock  were 
of  more  significance  for  their  cumulative  than  for  their  individual 
effects.  And  always  it  was  necessary  to  bear  in  mind  that  a great  rail 
complex,  with  many  alternative  routes,  was  available  for  enemy  use. 
Establishment  of  interdiction  was  a “must”;  the  complete  maintenance 
of  interdiction  was  equally  mandatory.  Constant  vigilance  was  re- 
quired on  the  part  of  the  planners  not  only  to  bring  down  bridges 
but  to  keep  them  down,  if  rail  cuts  were  to  be  maintained  at  a level 
which  would  stop  traffic.  It  was  also  essential  to  spot  any  marked 
enemy  movement,  particularly  on  lines  alternative  to  those  which  had 
been  put  out  of  action.  The  task  of  the  planners  of  interdiction,  and 
of  other  operations  as  well,  was  in  some  measure  simplified  by  the 
early  establishment  of  a tactical  area  whose  outer  boundaries  lay  well 
behind  the  enemy  lines.  The  region  within  its  limits  constituted  the 
special  preserve  of  Second  TAF  and  the  Ninth  Air  Force,  and  oper- 
ations beyond  its  boundaries  became  the  special,  though  not  exclusive, 
task  of  VIII  Fighter  Command  and  the  heavy  bombers  of  the  Eighth 
and  RAF  Bomber  Command.72 

The  success  of  a continuing  program  of  interdiction  depended 
heavily  upon  the  provision  of  accurate  information  as  to  the  existing 
status  of  targets  on  the  lists.  Strike  photographs  recorded  the  bomb- 
falls  of  heavies  and  mediums,  although  they  did  not  always  permit  a 
correct  estimate  of  the  damage  done.  Fighter-bombers,  so  frequently 
employed  in  interdiction,  provided  no  such  photographic  evidence 
but  merely  the  reports  by  the  pilots  of  attacking  planes  or  by  those 


2 1 1 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

waiting  their  turn  to  dive.  Continuous  photographic  reconnaissance 
of  a multitude  of  targets  over  a wide  area  was  therefore  at  a premium. 
But  at  times  in  June,  and  more  markedly  in  July,  adverse  weather  de- 
nied activity  to  photographic  reconnaissance  (PR)  units.  For  example, 
no  PR  was  available  on  the  Grande  Ceinture  rail  nexus  about  Paris 
from  15  to  19  June,73  and  in  the  absence  of  clear  evidence  as  to  the 
status  of  interdiction  objectives,  the  staff  was  often  forced  to  reassign 
targets  for  attack  simply  because  the  estimated  time  needed  to  effect 
their  repair  had  passed.  Admittedly,  such  a policy  might  involve  a 
waste  of  effort,  as  later  evidence  was  to  suggest,  but  during  the  Battle 
of  Normandy  the  stakes  involved  in  the  interdiction  game  were  high. 
In  spite  of  possible  waste  commanders  were  forced  to  act  on  the  prin- 
ciple, “when  in  doubt,  take  the  trick.” 

Fortunately,  great  resources  were  at  their  disposal.  The  heavies  of 
the  RAF  and  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force  were  on  call,  and  their  escorts, 
whether  from  Second  TAF,  VIII  Fighter  Command,  or  the  Ninth 
Air  Force,  at  times  were  able  to  double  as  attack  planes.  Increasingly, 
as  the  heavies  began  to  resume  strategic  operations  in  mid-June,  the 
mediums  of  IX  Bomber  Command  were  employed.  Throughout  the 
period  the  fighter-bombers  of  both  the  Eighth  and  the  Ninth  were 
omnipresent,  attacking  vigorously  within  and  without  the  interdiction 
line.  Only  a part  of  IX  Fighter  Command’s  resources  had  been  com- 
mitted to  IX  TAC,  and  the  July  activities  of  the  latter  afford  some 
index  to  the  intensity  of  the  interdiction  effort.  In  24  flying  days  this 
one  command  flew  over  150  interdiction  missions,  normally  in  group 
strength.  The  daily  average  was  6.3  missions,  and  the  command  cele- 
brated the  4th  of  July  with  a record  of  20.  IX  TAC’s  groups  on  occa- 
sion added  their  contribution  to  the  destruction  of  road  targets,  and 
VIII  Fighter  Command  concentrated  on  rails  with  incidental  attention 
to  the  highways.  Pilots  were  often  assigned  specific  targets  but  fre- 
quent armed  “recces”  served  the  purposes  of  interdiction  equally  well. 
Within  an  area  assigned  for  offensive  patrol,  the  pilots  were  free  to 
choose  targets  on  the  basis  of  their  own  observations.  No  useful  dis- 
tinction can  be  drawn  between  a specific  mission  assigned  to  “Rail 
cutting  La  Hutte-Colombieres-Le  Mans”  and  one  assigned  to  “Armed 
recce  Alengon,  Chartres,  Cloyes,  Le  Mans.”  In  both  cases  leaders  of 
the  mission  determined  the  targets  to  be  bombed  and  strafed;  in  each 
case  those  chosen  were  certain  to  include  bridges,  rails,  rolling  stock, 
and  road  transport  singly  or,  more  usually,  in  combination. 


212 


NORMANDY 


There  were  two  limitations  to  the  use  of  available  resources  for 
interdiction  purposes:  in  general  the  Ninth’s  commitments  to  air  sup- 
port and  other  missions  prevented  the  use  of  its  entire  power;  and, 
for  a time,  the  distance  at  which  Loire  bridge  targets  lay  from  the 
mediums’  English  bases  militated  against  their  employment.  Not  until 
7 July  were  the  mediums  brought  into  play  against  these  more  distant 
targets  and  then  only  because  it  was  considered  essential  to  block  the 
entry  of  German  reinforcements  into  the  battle  area  from  the  south.74 
When  so  employed  many  planes  were  forced  to  refuel  on  continental 
fields  or  accept  the  risk  of  flying  directly  back  to  their  bases  on  the 
minimum  supply  which  remained  in  their  tanks. 

A plan  so  far-reaching  and  involving  such  heavy  commitments  did 
not  prevail  without  challenge.  From  late  May  until  mid- August  the 
suggestion  was  repeatedly  advanced  in  AEAF  conferences  that  a crip- 
pling offensive  blow  at  Luftwaffe  bases  was  so  desirable  that  the  inter- 
diction program  should  be  momentarily  relaxed  to  provide  for  the 
necessary  mass  attack,  a suggestion  growing  out  of  concern  lest  the 
Luftwaffe  be  allowed  to  develop  again  its  offensive  power.  The  main 
protagonists  of  such  a diversion  from  the  interdiction  program  were 
Doolittle  and  Spaatz,  with  Harris  on  occasion  supporting  them.  In  the 
latter’s  opinion,  the  bombing  of  freight  yards  was  a process  involving 
continued  attacks,  as  indeed  it  was,  and  the  effort  had  failed  to  pro- 
duce decisive  results.  Tedder  at  times  agreed  in  principle,  but  gener- 
ally held  that  the  interdiction  program  had  shown  its  worth.  Leigh- 
Mallory  and  Coningham  expressed  confidence  in  the  ability  of  fighter- 
bombers  to  deal  with  anything  that  the  GAF  might  put  into  the  air. 
By  mid-July  the  Eighth  had  evolved  a project  for  simultaneous  attacks 
on  fields  in  France  and  Belgium  which  would  require  the  full  available 
strength  of  all  Allied  air  forces,  but  not  until  August  was  there  agree- 
ment on  the  project’s  execution.75  Even  then  the  attack,  on  14  August, 
was  limited  by  the  Ninth’s  commitments  in  the  battle  area  and  by 
weather  which  blocked  off  some  of  the  fields  in  the  Low  Countries. 

The  interdiction  plan  thus  prevailed  and  its  offensive  rolled  on  irre- 
sistibly throughout  the  entire  period  of  the  Battle  of  Normandy.  On 
D-day  itself  IX  Fighter  Command  made  two  dive-bombing  attacks  on 
the  Seine  bridge  under  repair  at  Oissel  and  inflicted  serious  damage, 
while  IX  Bomber  Command  attacked  freight  yards  east  of  the  Seine. 
On  that  same  day  VIII  Fighter  Command  included  a heavy  toll  of 
locomotives  and  rolling  stock  in  its  claims.  On  D plus  1 , RAF  Bomber 


213 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

Command  continued  its  strikes  against  freight  yards,  including  targets 
such  as  Dreux  and  Evreux  which  lay  within  the  tactical  area.  Likewise, 
on  D plus  i the  Eighth  began  its  work  of  extending  the  interdiction 
line  down  the  Loire  from  Orleans  by  bombing  bridges,  and  continued 
its  daylight  attacks  on  freight  yards.76  The  tempo  thus  set  was  stoutly 
maintained  thereafter.  Fighter  reaction  by  the  GAF  on  occasion 
strongly  suggested  that  the  targets  which  it  sought  to  defend  were 
highly  prized.77  Missions  were  regularly  flown  against  points  in  the 
Paris-Orleans  gap,  fighter-bombers  of  the  Ninth  worked  over  compli- 
cated “ladders  of  interdiction”— vital  sections  of  rail  lines— within  the 
Seine-Gap-Loire  boundaries,  and  the  planes  of  VIII  Fighter  Com- 
mand in  their  rovings  beyond  these  boundaries  developed  the  trick  of 
dropping  fuel  tanks  with  detonators  attached  to  set  fire  to  stalled 
trains.78  Highways  were  relentlessly  patrolled.  With  RAF  and  the 
Eighth  and  Ninth  Air  Forces  cooperating,  attacks  on  freight  yards 
alone  involved  over  15,000  Allied  sorties  and  nearly  35,500  tons  of 
bombs  dropped  in  the  period  from  6 June  through  31  July.  In  the 
same  period,  Allied  planes  flew  over  16,000  sorties  and  directed  more 
than  24,500  tons  of  bombs  against  bridge  targets.79 

The  French  railway  system  was  admittedly  below  par  before  the 
interdiction  program  went  into  effect.  German  controls  were  ineffi- 
cient, and  while  earlier  drafts  made  on  French  locomotive  stocks  had 
been  atoned  for,  in  some  measure,  by  replacements  from  Germany  in 
May,  all  was  not  well  in  that  particular.  The  damage  inflicted  on  the 
system  in  advance  of  D-day,  measured  statistically,  had  not  reduced 
rail  capacity  to  less  than  the  enemy’s  total  needs,  but  the  system  never- 
theless had  been  hit  at  critical  points.80  Through  lines  in  freight  yards 
might  be  restored  to  use  within  twenty-four  hours  of  their  bombing, 
but  spur  tracks  and  many  repair  shops  had  been  damaged  or  de- 
stroyed, as  had  facilities  for  coaling  and  watering.  Service  was  further 
disorganized  by  such  extensive  damage  to  signal  apparatus  that  hand 
signals  had  to  be  employed  for  control  of  train  movements,  and  Ger- 
man figures  show  an  alarming  rise  in  the  percentage  of  locomotives 
damaged  by  air  and  a startling  diminution  in  the  amount  of  all  types 
of  traffic.81 

Of  more  immediate  tactical  significance  was  the  destruction  of  rail 
bridges  on  the  Seine  line  of  interdiction.  By  D-day  all  nine  of  the 
bridges  from  Maisons-Lafitte  on  the  western  outskirts  of  Paris  to 
Rouen  had  been  destroyed,  chiefly  as  a result  of  Ninth  Air  Force 


214 


NORMANDY 


action,  and  to  heap  higher  the  measure  of  the  enemy’s  discomfiture, 
a dozen  road  bridges  between  Conflans-Stc.-I  lonorinc  and  Rouen  had 
been  demolished.  The  enemy  rightly  rated  the  rail  bridge  at  Le  Ma- 
noir  as  of  no  importance,  and  he  early  decided  not  to  attempt  the  re- 
pair of  three  more,  but  he  did  attempt  to  rebuild  other  rail  structures 
or  to  provide  emergency  substitutes  for  them  in  an  effort  destined 
to  be  completely  nullified  by  later  bombings.  Conflans,  where  recon- 
struction began  on  9 June,  was  so  badly  hit  on  the  12th  that  a pier 
was  destroyed  together  with  all  the  new  pilings  that  had  been  put  in 
place.  The  bridge  was  probably  “serviceable”  again  by  15  July,  but 
only  in  so  shaky  a condition  as  to  make  its  use  negligible.82  The  third 
span  to  be  destroyed  at  Le  Manoir,  nearer  the  battle  area,  was  de- 
molished on  14  June  and  a temporary  structure  there  later  suffered 
the  same  fate.  The  crossing  at  Oissel,  to  which  the  German  engineers 
devoted  much  time,  suffered  damage  when  a single-track  emergency 
bridge  was  hit  in  air  attacks  of  6 and  7 June.  Fighter-bomber  pilots 
returning  from  a mission  against  Oissel  on  29  June  reported  “no  re- 
sults observed,”  but  actually  they  had  destroyed  three  recently  com- 
pleted spans  of  the  bridge.  As  the  enemy  persisted  in  his  repairs,  a 
bridge  at  this  point  later  became  available  long  enough  to  permit  the 
crossing  of  one  train.  But  French  railway  records  indicate  that  this 
was  the  only  train  to  cross  the  Seine  interdiction  line  during  the  battle 
west  of  that  river.88 

When  D-day  brought  an  end  to  the  need  to  conceal  Allied  inten- 
tions from  the  enemy,  selected  points  on  the  Loire  were  opened  for 
attack.*  Eight  of  the  nineteen  highway  bridges  between  Tours  and 
Nantes,  though  none  were  officially  listed  for  attack,  had  been  de- 
molished before  it  was  determined  to  abandon  such  targets  altogether 
on  17  June.  All  nine  railway  bridges  between  Tours  and  Nantes,  to- 
gether with  three  up  river  from  Tours  to  Orleans,  were  subjected  to 
methodical  assault.  Since  the  Army  considered  it  essential  to  stop  all 
enemy  movement  across  the  Loire,  attacks  were  recurrent  and  added 
steadily  to  the  effects  earlier  produced  by  the  smashing  of  freight 
yards  at  Tours,  Orleans,  Angers,  and  Saumur.  Only  four  of  the  Loire 
bridges  were  reported  standing  on  13  June,  and  whereas  400  trains 
had  crossed  from  the  south  in  the  first  week  of  April,  no  more  than  14 
did  so  in  the  week  ending  on  16  June.84 

The  German  obviously  set  store  by  most  of  the  Loire  bridges,  for 

* See  above,  p.  1 58. 


215 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD- WAR  II 


lie  increased  his  flak  defenses  and  engaged  in  strenuous  efforts  at  re- 
pair, despite  successive  frustrations.  “Tallboys”  dropped  by  the  RAF 
on  the  night  of  8/9  June  had  blocked  a rail  tunnel  just  north  of  the 
river  bridge  at  Saumur,  and  before  the  tunnel  was  restored  to  service 
IX  Bomber  Command  had  rendered  the  bridge  impassable.  The  struc- 
ture at  Les  Ponts  de  Ce,  impassable  since  1 940,  was  hurriedly  repaired 
by  the  enemy  in  July,  but  it  was  demolished  on  the  very  afternoon 
that  it  was  opened  for  traffic  and  before  any  train  had  passed.  Further 
attacks  on  3 1 July  and  1 August  negated  later  repair  efforts.  At  Tours- 
la-Riche,  after  an  attack  of  8 June,  reconstruction  made  the  bridge 
passable  at  the  end  of  nine  days  for  single  cars  without  locomotives— 
“pushing  operations”  was  the  graphic  phrase  used  by  the  bedeviled 
Germans  to  describe  their  passage.  Renewed  air  attacks  on  23/24  and 
25  June  forced  the  enemy  to  attempt  further  repairs,  with  the  limited 
purpose  of  restoring  single-track  traffic  for  light  locomotives.  This 
hope  was  for  a time  fulfilled,  but  four  attacks  by  mediums  between 
7 and  3 1 July,  coupled  with  a dive  bombing  on  the  30th,  denied  the 
enemy  any  effective  use  of  the  bridge.  On  one  occasion  it  was  de- 
stroyed a half-hour  after  the  chief  transport  officer  of  the  Seventh 
Army  had  completed  an  inspection.  Nine  of  the  sixteen  arches  of  the 
bridge  at  Orleans  had  been  destroyed  in  one  attack  on  8 June,  but  its 
repair  was  not  attempted  “because  no  engineer  forces  were  available.” 
Indeed,  available  forces  were  stretched  so  thin  that  “pushing  opera- 
tions” formed  the  modest  goal  of  German  railway  troops  as  they 
strove  to  rebuild  the  bridges  at  Nantes,  Chalonnes,  and  Cinq  Mars. 
The  enemy  complained  too  of  a shortage  of  antiaircraft  defenses,  as 
in  the  following  entry  in  the  war  diary  of  the  German  Seventh  Army. 
“On  the  evening  of  July  19  four  bridges  over  the  Loire  were  elimi- 
nated because  of  the  lack  of  antiaircraft  artillery.”  The  reference  was 
to  attacks  by  mediums  between  the  hours  of  1920  and  2002  on  Nan- 
tes, Chalonnes,  Les  Ponts  de  Ce,  and  Tours-la-Riche  for  which  IX 
Bomber’s  claims  were  considerably  less  than  the  results  thus  acknowl- 
edged by  the  enemy. 

In  the  Paris-Orleans  gap,  where  some  eight  points  were  marked  as 
interdiction  targets,  a comparable  race  between  destruction  and  con- 
struction developed.  Bridges  at  Chartres  were  struck  by  mediums 
flying  in  on  six  occasions  between  14  June  and  9 August.  The  Ninth’s 
fighter-bombers  delivered  seven  attacks  on  the  Cherisy  viaduct  be- 
tween 12  June  and  18  July,  knocking  out  several  spans.  The  Todt 

2 16 


NORMANDY 


organization  was  able  to  base  steel  trusses  on  the  piers  which  remained 
standing,  but  these  piers  were  attended  to  by  the  French  Forces  of  the 
Interior  after  a final  dive  bombing  had  merely  destroyed  the  super- 
structure. German  records  show  that  the  391st  Bombardment  Group’s 
attack  on  the  long  viaduct  at  Maintenon  on  6 July  interrupted  service 
on  the  through  line  to  Chartres,  and  it  is  evident  that  a repeat  attack 
again  ended  its  usefulness  on  the  25th.85  A more  perfect  knowledge 
of  the  French  rail  network  and  of  its  current  use  by  the  enemy  might 
have  enabled  equal  results  to  have  been  obtained  in  this  area  with 
greater  economy  of  effort.  But  although  alternative  routes  were  at 
times  available,  major  hurt  was  done  the  enemy,  for  the  six  rail  routes 
in  the  gap  were  fully  closed  for  56  per  cent  of  the  battle  period.86 

Successful  attacks  were  also  made  on  bridges  at  Pontorson  and 
Pontaubault,  and  at  points  in  Brittany.  On  18  July  the  enemy  re- 
corded that  five  spans  of  the  enormously  high  viaduct  at  Laval  had 
been  destroyed.  This  was  the  work  of  IX  Bomber  Command,  and  in  a 
repeat  mission  of  the  21st  the  mediums  destroyed  the  still  incomplete 
repairs.87 

Other  targets  related  to  the  objectives  of  interdiction  were  not 
neglected.  Saturation  bombing  by  heavies  and  follow-up  blows  by 
fighter-bombers  so  flattened  freight  yards  that  it  was  later  estimated 
that  these  attacks  alone  had  effected  by  mid-July  a 57  per  cent  re- 
duction in  the  volume  of  German  traffic.88  By  no  means  incidentally, 
these  blastings  destroyed  the  normal  communications  channels  used 
by  the  German  railway  administration,  which  was  forced  to  extempo- 
rize a radio  substitute  for  phone  service  and  to  send  officers  out  to 
carry  orders  and  to  superintend  the  entrainment  and  detrainment  of 
troops.  Women  clerks  at  headquarters  broke  under  the  strain.89  The 
enemy  acknowledged  the  loss  of  551  locomotives  in  June  from  bomb- 
ing, strafing,  and  sabotage.  Although  many  freight  cars  were  de- 
stroyed, he  experienced  no  general  shortage,  save  by  special  types,  but 
“pushing  operations”  over  the  single-track  bridges  at  Tours  created  a 
grave  situation.  Movement  northward  engrossed  the  full  capacity  of 
the  bridge,  and  empties  (among  them  special  cars  for  carrying  tanks) 
accumulated  and  stagnated  north  of  the  river,  though  badly  needed 
elsewhere.  Persistent  Allied  policing  of  rail  lines  by  fighter-bombers 
forced  the  Germans  to  issue  a strict  order  that  trains  be  placed  on 
sidings  at  daybreak,  with  cars  separated  and  camouflaged,  and  after 
21  June  daylight  traffic  was  permitted  only  on  special  order.90 


217 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


In  rail-cutting  operations  the  American  pilots  made  excessive  claims 
but  their  work  was  effective  enough.  The  enemy  showed  himself  re- 
sourceful in  running  shuttle  trains  on  sections  which  remained  pass- 
able and  engaged  in  such  strenuous  effort  to  maintain  repairs  that  in 
bad  flying  weather  repair  might  overtake  the  work  of  destruction. 
But  problems  of  section  maintenance  were  increased  by  the  loss  of  a 
bridge  or  tunnel,  and  slow  speeds  were  forced  upon  his  engine  drivers 
even  where  traffic  was  restored.  Cuts  also  caused  traffic  jams  which 
offered  rewarding  targets  for  attack,91  and  Allied  planes,  including 
armed  recces,  were  quick  to  spot  a target  of  opportunity.  After  V-E 
Day,  von  Rundstedt  described  the  results  of  the  Allied  rail  interdic- 
tion as  “katastrophal”  and  in  terms  of  a “traffic  desert,”  which  soon 
embraced  the  entire  network  of  related  highways  as  well.92 

It  is  not  always  possible  to  measure  exactly  the  effects  of  interdic- 
tion operations,  but  it  is  clear  that  the  net  result  placed  the  enemy 
squarely  between  the  upper  and  the  nether  millstones.  He  could  not 
use  the  rails  of  northwestern  France  and  the  roads  there  offered  a far 
from  satisfactory  substitute.  Travel  by  night  was  the  only  safe  pro- 
cedure, and  at  that  season  of  the  year  daylight  prevailed  for  sixteen 
hours  in  each  twenty-four.  Moreover,  night  travel  forced  the  wide 
spacing  of  convoys  on  the  roads  and  the  use  of  low  speeds,  at  the  very 
time  when  the  ever  increasing  distance  of  railheads  from  the  front  in- 
creased the  mileage  which  trucks  must  negotiate.93  Not  even  the  pool- 
ing of  truck  resources  of  all  arms  of  the  Wehrmacht  could  overcome 
the  difficulty,  for  the  Germans  had  entered  the  struggle  with  insuffi- 
cient truck  transport  and  heavy  losses  increased  the  scarcity,  which 
became  so  marked  that  as  early  as  7 July  German  Army  Group  B in- 
sisted on  the  provision  of  more  trains  because  of  the  pinching  shortage 
of  trucking.94  The  first  report  in  enemy  records  that  individual  cars 
were  not  safe  from  attack  on  the  roads  was  made  on  D-day,  and  Ger- 
man staff  cars  soon  found  the  roads  so  perilous  that  they  used  spotters, 
fore  and  aft,  to  give  warning  of  the  approach  of  Allied  planes.95  Con- 
ingham  noted  in  early  June  that  enemy  movement  in  small  concen- 
trations made  it  difficult  for  Second  TAF  to  find  lucrative  road  tar- 
gets, and  in  July  the  Ninth’s  fighter-bombers  submitted  few  claims  of 
road  transport  destroyed.  Possibly  this  was  because  of  their  concen- 
tration on  rails  at  that  time;  more  probably  it  was  occasioned  by  the 
absence  of  road  traffic.98 

For  the  purposes  of  emphasis  it  may  be  useful  at  this  point  to  note 

218 


NORMANDY 


the  illuminating  postwar  comment  of  the  U.S.  VII  Corps,  for  the 
exact  converse  of  the  situation  which  it  describes  prevailed  on  the 
enemy’s  side  of  the  front,  where  the  appearance  of  a solitary  motor- 
cyclist was  the  occasion  for  remark,  and  attack,  by  Allied  pilots.  “We 
would  never  have  been  able  to  move  so  fast  and  as  far  as  we  did  if  we 
had  had  to  string  out  our  columns  to  the  extent  theoretically  required 
for  passive  defense  against  enemy  aircraft.  Much  time  was  also  saved 
by  not  having  to  disperse  vehicles  and  bivouac  to  the  extent  that 
would  have  been  necessary  had  we  not  had  almost  complete  air  su- 
periority. Same  for  camouflage.  Not  having  to  worry  about  these 
things  takes  a load  off  the  mind  of  ground  troops  which  is  of  genuine 
intrinsic  value.”97  The  comment  serves  also  to  emphasize  the  extent 
to  which  the  Allied  air  forces  had  met  their  primary  responsibility  for 
the  furtherance  of  ground  operations— to  establish  and  maintain  a con- 
trol of  the  air  that  would  guarantee  freedom  from  interference  by  the 
enemy  air  force.  Anyone  who  saw  the  Normandy  roads  north  of  the 
battle  front  in  July  1944  carries  with  him  a vivid  picture  of  close- 
packed  vehicles  whose  spacing  seemed  to  be  determined  only  by  the 
amount  of  dust  kicked  up  ahead.  The  Allies  required  no  “broomstick 
commandos”  of  the  sort  employed  by  the  enemy  to  wipe  out  the 
tracks  made  on  roads  and  fields  when  their  vehicles  sought  daytime 
safety  under  such  cover  as  they  might  find  or  improvise.98 

T he  T est  of  T actical  Results 

Constant  surveillance  of  roads  and  rails,  repeat  blows  at  targets  on 
the  lines  of  interdiction,  and  repeated  attacks  on  freight  yards  as  close 
to  those  lines  as  £vreux  and  Argentan  and  as  far  removed  as  Belfort 
and  Saarbriicken  brought  results  that  were  both  varied  and  massive. 
There  can  be  no  question  that  the  enemy  sustained  great  physical 
damage.  But  since  the  entire  interdiction  program  was  designed  to 
affect  the  situation  on  the  battlefield,  the  measure  of  its  success  can 
be  determined  only  by  an  analysis  of  the  tactical  results  achieved.  For- 
tunately, the  availability  of  a mass  of  German  evidence  makes  such 
analysis  possible. 

Immediately  the  landings  of  6 June  indicated  the  focal  points  of 
Allied  attack,  von  Rundstedt’s  Seventh  Army  and  Rommel’s  Army 
Group  B were  faced  with  the  necessity  of  moving  troops  to  reinforce 
those  called  upon  to  face  the  assault.  Their  staff  officers  later  remarked 
that  the  only  real  chance  for  forward  displacement  existed  during 


219 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

the  opening  days  of  the  invasion.  The  situation  at  that  time  was  bad 
enough,  but  it  became  progressively  worse." 

The  enemy’s  problem  and  its  development  can  be  illustrated  by  spe- 
cific examples.  One  of  the  crack  units  at  his  disposal  was  the  3d  Para- 
chute Division,  which  was  located  in  the  Brest  area  on  D-day.  Its 
motorized  elements  left  for  the  front  on  7 June  and,  to  their  com- 
mander’s astonishment,  moved  to  Caumont  with  reasonable  speed  and 
without  being  subjected  to  air  attack.  The  remainder  of  the  division 
took  up  its  march  on  D plus  1,  moving  by  night  on  secondary  roads 
as  a precaution  against  air  attack.  Confiscated  bicycles  provided  some 
assistance,  as  did  also  horse-drawn  carts,  and  on  the  16th  one  rein- 
forced regiment  was  welcomed  by  Rommel  at  St.-Lo.  Other  elements 
straggled  in  later,  after  a march  of  some  200  miles  which  consumed 
from  two  to  ten  days.100  They  were  to  learn  of  air’s  power  immedi- 
ately after  their  arrival,  for  dive  bombers  hit  the  newly  established 
divisional  command  post  on  that  same  day  and  inflicted  casualties.  The 
265th  Infantry  Division  was  in  its  garrison  area  near  Quimper  on 
6 June  when  a Kampfgruppe  (combat  group)  was  alerted  for  move- 
ment north.  Trains  were  not  available  until  the  10th,  but  were  then 
loaded  under  the  supervision  of  an  officer  who  had  been  rushed  out 
by  road  from  Le  Mans  because  communications  with  transport  head- 
quarters had  been  broken.  The  trains  could  proceed  only  in  darkness 
and  by  way  of  forced  detours.  The  movement  stopped  entirely  on  the 
1 2th,  when  one  train  was  completely  isolated  and  others  were  held  up 
by  rail  cuts;  it  got  under  way  again  on  the  14th,  but  not  until  two 
days  later  did  all  elements  arrive  in  the  Rennes  area— still  some  distance 
from  the  battle  lines.  Although  the  Kampfgruppe  is  described  as  poor- 
ly equipped  to  march,  it  had  to  continue  its  journey  by  road,  after  a 
full  week  had  been  consumed  in  covering  less  than  100  miles  by  rail.101 

Tanks  were  at  a premium  in  the  battle  which  had  been  joined,  and 
were  indispensable  if  a counterattack  was  to  be  mounted.  To  provide 
needed  armor  the  9th  and  10th  SS  Panzer  Divisions,  which  earlier  had 
been  released  from  the  western  command  for  use  on  the  eastern  front, 
were  ordered  back  from  the  Lwow  area  in  Poland,  where  they  were 
refitting.  Starting  on  7 and  10  June  they  moved  with  speed  from 
Lwow  to  Metz.  Thence,  because  overstrained  rail  capacity  would 
allow  no  more,  only  the  actual  armored  units  moved  by  rail  to  Paris. 
The  balance  had  to  take  to  the  roads,  and  consumed  as  much  time 
traveling  200  miles  to  the  battle  front  as  they  had  spent  in  covering 


220 


NORMANDY 


1,300  miles  by  train.  Elements  of  these  much-needed  divisions  did  not 
appear  on  the  Normandy  front  until  late  in  June.102  The  17th  SS 
Panzer  Grenadier  Division  had  been  based  at  Thouars,  south  of  the 
Loire.  Since  it  was  under  the  immediate  jurisdiction  of  OKW  ( Ober - 
kommando  der  W ehrmacht) , the  division  began  its  movement  on  the 
very  day  of  the  assault.  Tracked  elements  gained  nothing  from  the 
flowery  code  name  of  MIMOSA  bestowed  upon  their  movement  by 
rail  transport  officers,  and  after  a single  day  on  the  rails,  cuts  produced 
by  bombing  forced  several  sections  to  detrain  at  various  points  from 
La  Fleche  in  the  north  to  one  below  Saumur  in  the  south.  Other  ele- 
ments, proceeding  by  road,  had  hardly  begun  their  march  before  the 
“Jabos”  twice  dived  at  them  and  inflicted  heavy  damage  to  vehicles, 
guns,  personnel,  and  morale.  Thereafter,  the  march  was  continued 
along  secondary  roads  and  only  at  night.  It  took  five  full  days  to  cover 
the  200  miles  separating  Thouars  from  Periers.108 

Parts  of  a fourth  panzer  division  played  the  leading  roles  in  a later 
epic  of  frustration.  Tracked  elements  of  the  2d  SS  Panzer  Division 
left  Limoges  on  1 1 June,  and  its  Panther  (tank)  detachment  set  out 
from  Toulouse  several  days  afterward.  The  Maquis  made  the  journey 
through  southern  France  anything  but  tranquil,  but  the  real  trouble 
began  when  the  nine  trains  employed  in  the  movement  reached  the 
line  of  the  Loire  at  dates  between  14  and  16  June.  Broken  bridges 
forced  detrainment  on  the  south  bank  of  the  stream,  whence  the  units 
moved  across  to  Angers  as  best  they  could.  While  the  only  cars  north 
of  the  river  which  were  capable  of  carrying  tanks— no  more  than  the 
equivalent  of  two  trains— were  forwarded  to  Angers  to  freight  the 
armor,  some  elements  of  the  division  moved  on  by  road.  Other  ele- 
ments got  as  far  as  the  rail  center  at  Le  Mans  by  train  on  dates  ranging 
from  the  17th  to  the  23  d,  though  not  without  considerable  difficulty 
occasioned  by  the  work  of  saboteurs  and  Allied  planes.  An  attempt 
to  continue  the  rail  movements  to  Le  Mans  on  the  24th  ended  with 
the  blocking  of  two  trains  in  open  country,  and  that,  so  the  military 
chief  of  railway  transport  noted,  “completed  the  rail  movement.” 
Thereafter,  and  with  important  elements  of  the  division  still  to  be 
moved  out  of  Angers,  the  order  for  all  was  a road  march.104  Not  until 
the  closing  days  of  the  month  were  elements  of  the  2d  SS  Panzer  Di- 
vision identified  on  the  fighting  front. 

Such  a “pilgrim’s  progress”  was  the  lot  of  many  other  organizations 
headed  for  the  battlefield.  In  general,  rail  movement  originating  east 


221 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

of  the  Seine  ended  not  far  west  of  the  French  capital.  Approximately 
half  of  the  troops  coming  in  from  the  south  detrained  below  the  Loire 
barrier,  and  those  who  got  across  advanced  no  more  than  50  miles 
farther  by  rail.  The  German  summary  of  troop  movements  in  June 
indicates  that  few  trains  reached  their  destination;  “ Landmarsch ” is 
the  laconic  entry  which  ends  most  of  its  quick  descriptions  of  move- 
ment, and  on  the  well-nigh  inevitable  road  march  motors  could  aver- 
age 30  miles  per  day  and  foot  15  miles.105  In  retrospect,  von  Rund- 
stedt  hazarded  the  opinion  that  even  had  a greater  number  of  divisions 
been  available  for  his  use  the  net  result  of  any  effort  to  bring  them 
into  action  could  only  have  been  an  increase  in  the  confusion  which 
prevailed.106  An  entry  in  the  war  diary  of  the  Seventh  Army  has  even 
greater  tactical  significance,  since  it  was  made  on  1 1 June,  when  the 
American  beachheads  had  not  been  firmly  joined:  “Troop  movements 
and  all  supply  traffic  to  the  army  and  within  the  army  sector  must  be 
considered  as  completely  cut  off.” 

The  enemy  concentrated  the  full  of  his  transportation  facilities  on 
the  movement  of  troops  during  the  first  three  weeks  of  the  Battle  of 
Normandy.  By  the  end  of  that  time  the  demands  of  units  in  action 
forced  him  to  a strenuous  effort  to  replenish  supplies  exhausted  by 
continuous  battle  and  to  provide  stocks  which  the  hoped-for  counter- 
attack would  require.  Rommel  in  the  Caen-Bayeux  area  and  Marx 
in  the  Cotentin  clamored  for  resupply,  but  on  26  June  the  Seventh 
Army  was  forced  to  confess  that  it  could  not  guarantee  a regular  flow 
of  supplies  in  support  even  of  current  operations.  The  breakdown  of 
the  railways  and  a continuing  shortage  of  road  transport  were  cited 
as  the  causes  for  this  tactically  perilous  situation.107  Special  priorities 
were  created  for  the  movement  of  ammunition  and  fuel,  and  transpor- 
tation officers  were  charged  both  to  expedite  the  shipments  and  to  en- 
force the  security  regulations  against  air  attack  which  experience  had 
shown  to  be  so  necessary.  Small  wonder  that  the  enemy  took  all  pos- 
sible means  to  assure  the  rapid  unloading  of  precious  freight  that  did 
reach  its  destination,  and  that  he  lamented  the  fact  that  the  unloading 
was  generally  measured  by  days  rather  than  by  hours.108 

Although  it  cannot  be  said  that  the  recently  inaugurated  strategic 
bombing  campaign  against  oil  refineries*  had  as  yet  affected  the  ene- 
my’s situation  on  the  Normandy  battle  front,  it  is  clear  enough  that 
fuel  was  regarded  there  as  in  short  supply.  In  order  to  aggravate  that 

* See  above,  pp.  172-79. 

222 


NORMANDY 


shortage  and  to  strike  also  at  supplies  of  ammunition,  AEAF  sent  re- 
peated attacks  against  the  forested  areas  sheltering  the  enemy’s  for- 
ward dumps.  Fighter-bombers  of  the  Ninth  were  frequently  em- 
ployed on  such  missions,  but  the  mediums  of  IX  Bomber  Command 
constituted  the  main  weapon.  Navigators  of  B-2  6’s  and  A-2o’s,  as  they 
strove  to  supplement  the  work  of  interdiction,  became  bitterly  fa- 
miliar with  the  map  locations  of  the  Forets  de  Senonches,  d’Ecouves, 
de  Conches,  and  above  all,  the  Foret  d’Andaine.  Target  areas  were 
generally  well  hit,  but  the  German’s  methodical  dispersion  of  his 
stocks  reduced  the  extent  of  bomb  damage.  Exact  measurement  of  the 
contribution  thus  made  to  the  enemy’s  critical  shortages  can  never  be 
determined,  but  beyond  doubt  his  distress  was  aggravated.  The  de- 
struction of  two  million  liters  of  gasoline  at  Rennes  by  mediums  and 
fighter-bombers  and  the  firing  of  fuel  supplies  at  Vitre  and  of  storage 
tanks  at  Tours  certainly  involved  no  small  local  losses.109 

Since  it  is  an  established  fact  that  combat-troop  demands  for  vital 
supplies  were  not  met,  attempts  to  measure  the  effects  produced  by 
actual  destruction  of  dumps  is  in  a way  irrelevant,  save  for  the  planner 
of  future  operations.  What  counts  is  the  net  result  of  the  total  effort, 
and  that  is  easily  demonstrated.  The  needs  of  the  2d  SS  Panzer  Di- 
vision, for  example,  were  such  that  fuel  was  ordered  flown  to  its  relief 
on  13  June.  Yet,  its  chiefs  were  forced  two  weeks  later  to  report  their 
regret  that  “the  attacking  panzer  units  cannot  bring  up  all  their  tanks 
owing  to  the  lack  of  fuel.”110  Restrictions  had  been  placed  on  the  use 
of  ammunition,  even  against  air  attacks,  before  the  invasion  and  official 
restrictions  on  the  use  of  fuel  had  forced  commanders  to  use  horses 
or  bicycles  when  visiting  their  units.111  After  the  Allied  landings,  the 
phone  log  of  the  Seventh  Army  is  replete  with  complaints  of  short- 
ages, requisitions  impossible  to  fulfil,  and  notes  of  planned  improvi- 
sations for  relief.  In  the  face  of  critical  front-line  needs,  the  movement 
of  fuel  and  ammunition  trains  in  daylight  had  to  be  forbidden  on  18 
June  “to  prevent  their  annihilation,”  and  Rommel’s  last  situation  re- 
port shows  conditions  unimproved  in  July.112  The  best  that  the  enemy 
could  do  with  the  three  trains  he  might  be  able  to  move  into  the  Seine- 
Loire  area  each  day,  and  with  the  Seine  barges  which  he  pressed  into 
service,  was  to  carry  some  3,000  tons  per  day  of  vital  supplies  when 
the  quartermaster’s  demands  totaled  7,000.  Some  shreds  of  relief  may 
have  been  afforded  by  the  stocks  of  both  fuel  and  ammunition  carried 
by  incoming  units,  but  in  view  of  the  transport  difficulties  they  en- 

223 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

countered  it  is  unlikely  that  their  stipulated  eight-day  stock  of  mu- 
nitions and  gasoline  for  movements  of  seventy-five  miles  or  more  ever 
constituted  a reserve  after  their  arrival  at  the  front.113 

The  supply  of  ammunition  and  fuel  was  a particularly  critical  prob- 
lem for  the  panzers,  whose  tanks  could  not  work  effectively  unless  pro- 
vided with  a diet  rich  in  oil  and  munitions.  Claims  for  tanks  destroyed 
on  roads  by  fighter-bombers  were  the  frequent  cause  for  congratu- 
lation to  pilots,  and  congratulations  were  very  much  in  order  in  the 
case  of  those  who  participated  in  the  attacks  on  rails  near  Mantes  on 
23  and  24  June,  when  trains  loaded  with  tanks  were  hit  and  fired.  But 
hardly  less  important  was  the  wear  and  tear  imposed  on  tanks  which 
managed  to  reach  the  front  by  a Landmarsch.  There  is  a limit  to  the 
life  of  treads,  and  Allied  intelligence  indicated  that  German  tank  en- 
gines had  an  effective  lifetime  of  only  600  hours.  Both  at  the  time  and 
later,  the  enemy  stressed  the  fact  that  his  panzers  wore  out  their  tanks 
on  marches  to  the  battle  zone.  Such  was  the  experience  of  the  units  of 
9th  and  10th  SS  Panzer  Divisions,  after  detraining  at  Paris  in  June; 
and  the  extraordinary  effort  to  move  the  Panthers  of  the  2d  SS  Panzer 
Division  from  Angers*  by  rail  rather  than  by  road  was  explained  by 
the  desire  “to  save  fuel  and  the  already  badly  crippled  motors  of  the 
heavy  tanks.”114  Von  Rundstedt  made  the  additional  observation  that 
even  when  tanks  were  not  hit  on  the  road,  their  journey  became  both 
hazardous  and  wearing  because  of  the  craters  produced  by  air  bom- 
bardment.115 

The  accumulated  difficulties  of  the  tankers  exhibit  in  impressive 
manner  the  vicious  circle  into  which  air’s  interdiction  had  placed  the 
enemy.  Armored  units  were  forced  from  the  rails  to  the  roads  at 
points  distant  from  the  battlefield.  Their  Landmarsch  wore  them 
down,  and  repair  became  the  more  difficult  because  air  kept  repair 
depots  at  inconvenient  distances  from  the  front.  Once  the  tanks  had 
reached  the  front  and  been  committed  to  action,  their  appetites  added 
to  the  loads  that  sadly  depleted  rail  and  road  transport  were  called 
upon  to  bear.  And  thus  demands  that  units  and  supplies  be  brought 
closer  to  the  front  mounted  at  the  very  time  that  German  transpor- 
tation resources  were  being  progressively  diminished. 

The  losses,  risks,  and  delays  involved  in  rail  and  road  transportation 
made  it  difficult  for  German  staffs  to  use  their  resources  for  major  tac- 
tical effect.  Battle  action  is  seldom  as  orderly  on  the  field  as  it  appears 

* See  above,  p.  218. 


224 


NORMANDY 


to  be  in  after-action  accounts,  but  the  enemy’s  inevitable  confusions 
were  the  worse  confounded  because  of  the  effects  of  air  action.  Un- 
certainty as  to  the  time  when  units  would  be  at  his  disposal  made  it 
impossible  for  him  to  predict  his  capabilities  with  accuracy.  On  22 
June,  for  example,  Rommel’s  Army  Group  B knew  that  infantry  bri- 
gades were  on  their  way  from  Germany  but  could  only  guess  at  the 
time  of  their  arrival.  Later,  on  6 July,  the  Seventh  Army  could  not 
tell  when  the  balance  of  the  275th  Infantry  Division  could  be  brought 
up.  And  always  there  was  the  problem  as  to  how  much  transport 
space  might  be  available  and  how  best  to  apportion  the  probable  total 
between  troops  and  supplies  of  fuel  and  munitions.  Repeated  compro- 
mise and  adjustment  were  always  necessary,  for  the  enemy  was  well 
aware  that  his  full  needs  in  both  particulars  could  not  be  met.116 
Although  march  tables  could  be  drawn  up,  there  was  no  assurance 
that  their  provisions  would  be  fulfilled,  and  since  Allied  pressure  on 
the  ground  was  sustained,  the  enemy  was  driven  to  follow  a policy  of 
piecemeal  commitment,  with  elements  of  units  fed  into  the  lines  as 
rapidly  as  they  appeared  at  the  front.  As  a German  authority  later 
observed,  “Fighting  without  pause  caused  Army  Group  B constantly 
to  expend  forces  at  the  front  and  prevented  any  formation  of  a large 
reserve,  let  alone  planned  relief  and  rehabilitation  of  units  behind  the 
front.”117  In  the  midst  of  the  battle,  the  enemy’s  hard  pressed  trans- 
portation chief  in  the  West  had  deplored  the  fact  that  movements 
consumed  double  the  anticipated  time,  with  the  result  that  troops 
could  not  be  assembled  in  the  strength  required  for  a decisive  counter- 
attack “but  had  to  be  thrown  into  combat  piecemeal  immediately 
upon  their  arrival.”118  Casualties  were  severe,  and  replacements  were 
as  difficult  to  provide  as  were  reinforcements.  Unable  to  synchronize 
the  arrival  of  technical  equipment  and  units  trained  in  its  use,  the 
enemy  was  driven  to  employ  the  specialized  personnel  of  signal,  engi- 
neer, artillery,  and  panzer  units  in  an  infantry  role.  General  Mont- 
gomery had  prophesied  that  in  Normandy,  as  in  the  African  desert, 
Rommel  would  continually  assault  with  any  available  forces  from  di- 
vision down  to  company,  and  air’s  action  left  him  no  real  alternative 
save  a further  demonstration  of  his  natural  tactical  bent.119  But  he  was 
denied  the  opportunity  for  a major  counterattack. 

It  would  be  unfair  to  attribute  the  enemy’s  failure  seriously  to  chal- 
lenge the  Allied  invasion  entirely  to  the  effects  of  the  interdiction  pro- 
gram. Equally  conspicuous  in  the  causes  therefor  were  the  initiative, 

225 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


courage,  and  perseverance  of  the  Allied  ground  soldiers  who  prompt- 
ly applied  and  constantly  maintained  a relentless  pressure  at  critical 
points  on  a growing  front.  The  enemy  had  been  caught  off  guard  in 
Normandy  and  his  subsequent  concern  for  a second  landing  prevented 
his  effective  redeployment  of  such  forces  as  were  available  for  rein- 
forcements.120 For  this  Hitler  himself  was  in  no  small  part  responsible, 
a fact  reminding  one  of  the  rotund  rhetoric  of  Goering’s  later  decla- 
ration, “You  had  a great  ally  in  your  aerial  warfare— the  Fuehrer.”121 
Although  Hitler  had  anticipated  the  Allied  assault  in  Normandy,122 
he  also  cherished  the  opinion  that  another  landing  was  in  the  offing 
after  the  Normandy  beaches  had  been  stormed.  On  6 June  he  briefly 
delayed  the  use  of  panzer  divisions  from  reserve  by  Seventh  Army, 
and  at  a Soissons  conference  of  16-17  June  he  rejected  the  withdrawal 
proposed  by  Rommel  and  von  Rundstedt  but  still  refused  to  permit 
their  substantial  relief  from  the  resources  of  the  Fifteenth  Army.  Even 
at  the  end  of  June,  when  he  admitted  that  the  possibilities  of  counter- 
attack were  limited,  and  during  the  first  week  of  July,  he  continued 
to  refuse  permission  for  a shortening  of  the  lines  to  create  a reserve  or 
for  recommitment  of  the  Pas-de-Calais  garrison.  As  for  the  transpor- 
tation chaos  created  by  interdiction,  he  offered  a simple  solution— 
“men  of  iron  courage”  should  be  found  to  restore  order.123 

While  Hitler  stood  fast  and  air  applied  its  interdiction,  the  Allies 
won  the  build-up  race  upon  which  the  success  of  their  entire  oper- 
ation depended.  General  Morgan  in  November  1943  had  warned  that 
if  the  French  rail  and  road  network  were  left  intact,  the  enemy  would 
be  able  to  achieve  a faster  build-up  rate  than  could  the  Allies;124  and 
while  the  air  forces  were  striking  at  enemy  communications,  the  port 
battalions,  naval  forces,  and  beach  parties  worked  their  miracles  to 
overcome  the  menace.  It  was  heartening  for  Allied  leaders  to  note  as 
early  as  10  June  that  the  German  build-up  was  lagging  behind  Allied 
estimates  and  to  record  a week  later  that  German  strength,  which  the 
planners  had  anticipated  would  be  twenty-five  divisions  by  that  date, 
actually  amounted  to  only  fourteen  full-strength  divisional  units.  By 
4 July  1944,  the  Americans  had  four  corps  on  the  front  and  the  mil- 
lionth Allied  soldier  had  landed.125  In  pointing  out  the  critical  impor- 
tance of  the  build-up  race,  the  supreme  commander  was  later  to  affirm 
that  the  greatest  Allied  assets  in  overcoming  the  enemy’s  natural  ad- 
vantages were  air  and  sea  power.126 

The  Battle  of  Normandy  had  been  marked  by  a signal  demonstra- 

226 


NORMANDY 


tion  of  air  power’s  versatility  and  flexibility.  American  air  forces  em- 
ployed in  a tactical  role  had  accomplished  the  missions  set  forth  in 
FM  100-20.  They  had  made  their  special  contribution  to  the  estab- 
lishment of  air  superiority,  they  had  reduced  to  the  lowest  possible 
terms  the  enemy’s  capacity  to  move  troops  and  supplies  into  and 
within  the  battle  area,  and  by  indirect  and  direct  means  they  had  as- 
sisted the  ground  forces  to  attain  the  lines  held  on  25  July.  Allied 
commanders  acknowledged  their  debt  to  air  in  all  three  particulars.127 
But  German  opinion  on  these  same  points,  free  from  conventional 
courtesy  of  victorious  generals,  affords  an  even  more  effective  ap- 
praisal of  the  Allied  airmen’s  work.  Luftwaffe  authorities  averred  that 
“the  most  damaging  effect . . . resulted  from  the  paralysis  of  the  rail- 
way network,  the  destruction  of  all  bridges  across  the  Seine  [below] 
Paris,  and  the  considerable  dislocation  wrought  in  our  aircraft  report- 
ing services.”128  Von  Rundstedt  stressed  his  inability  to  mass  and  to 
maneuver  with  Allied  planes  overhead  and,  in  a singularly  intimate 
interrogation  directed  by  an  American  air  commander,  insisted  that 
from  his  point  of  view  as  commander  in  chief  in  the  West,  the  devas- 
tating “clockwork”  attacks  on  French  railroads  and  road  communica- 
tions were  more  dangerous  than  those  against  front-line  installations 
and  troops.129  He  admitted,  however,  that  a field  commander  might 
place  a different  value  on  the  “annihilating  effects”  of  air  attacks  on 
tactical  units,  and  it  may  be  well  in  closing  to  quote  from  a contempo- 
rary report  by  Gen.  Freiherr  Heinrich  von  Liittwitz,  commanding 
general  of  the  2d  Panzer  Division:  “The  Allies  are  waging  war  re- 
gardless of  expense.  In  addition  they  have  complete  mastery  of  the  air. 
They  bomb  and  strafe  every  movement,  even  single  vehicles  and  indi- 
viduals. They  reconnoiter  our  area  constantly  and  direct  their  artil- 
lery fire. . . . The  feeling  of  helplessness  against  enemy  aircraft . . . has 
a paralysing  effect,  and  during  the  [bombing]  barrage  the  effect  on 
inexperienced  troops  is  literally  ‘soul  shattering.’  ”130 
The  date  of  this  top-secret  report  was  17  July  1944,  and  at  that 
time  SHAEF  was  perfecting  plans  destined  to  give  the  Germans  fur- 
ther occasion  to  develop  their  commentary  on  Allied  air  power.  The 
breakout  at  St.-Lo  would  soon  follow. 


227 


CHAPTER  8 


THE  BATTLE  OF  FRANCE 

THE  assault  of  6 June  1944  on  the  Normandy  beaches  was 
merely  the  beginning  of  operations,  to  quote  from  Eisen- 
hower’s directive  of  12  February  1944,  “aimed  at  the  heart 
of  Germany  and  the  destruction  of  her  armed  forces.”  The  initial 
phase  of  these  operations  ended  in  mid-July  with  the  winning  of  the 
battle  of  the  beachhead  which  provided  sufficient  ground  for  massing 
and  maneuver  on  the  part  of  Allied  forces.  The  second  stage,  the 
breakout,  followed  immediately. 

The  use  of  overwhelming  air  power  to  speed  the  breakout  had  long 
been  discussed  by  Allied  commanders,  but  not  until  19  July  were 
plans  for  its  application  definitely  formulated  and  approved.  A con- 
ference was  then  held  at  AEAF  headquarters  at  Stanmore  with  Brad- 
ley, Tedder,  and  representatives  of  the  air  forces  present.  Basic  de- 
tails were  firmed,  and  on  that  day,  and  the  day  following,  orders 
were  issued  for  Operation  COBRA.1  According  to  an  agreement  at 
the  Stanmore  meeting,  both  D-day  and  H-hour  were  to  be  determined 
by  air  authorities  since  their  ability  to  act  in  full  strength  was  rated 
as  essential  to  the  operation.  The  original  agreement  tentatively  fixed 
the  2 1st  as  D-day,  but  adverse  weather  forced  postponement  of  any 
action  until  the  24th.  The  weather  forecasts  on  the  night  of  23  July 
were  not  altogether  propitious,  but  AEAF  determined  that  prepara- 
tions for  COBRA  should  commence.  Early  the  next  day  10/ 10  cloud 
in  the  St.-Lo  area  caused  Leigh-Mallory  to  put  off  tactical  air  action 
from  1000  to  1200  hours  when,  according  to  AEAF  meteorologists, 
weather  would  lift.  The  postponement  was  possible  since  FUSA  had 
earlier  signified  its  willingness  to  postpone  its  jump-off  to  as  late  as 
1 500  hours.2 

But  doubts  entertained  by  Eighth  Air  Force  weather  men  on  this 
score  were  well  founded.3  Six  groups  of  IX  TAC’s  fighter-bombers 
took  off  according  to  plan  to  deliver  their  attack,  but  three  groups 

228 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

were  recalled  on  account  of  adverse  weather  and  the  others  could  re- 
port only  that  they  had  bombed  their  target  area  with  no  results  ob- 
served. Meanwhile,  the  three  bombardment  divisions  of  the  Eighth 
Air  Force  had  dispatched  a total  of  1,586  aircraft,  and  as  the  heavies 
set  course  for  their  target  area  observers  on  the  far  shore  heard  the 
roar  of  their  engines  from  above  the  overcast.  Leigh-Mallory,  who 
was  at  Bradley’s  field  headquarters,  determined  to  cancel  the  opera- 
tion, but  word  of  his  decision  did  not  reach  the  Eighth  until  a few 
minutes  before  the  bombing  was  to  commence  and  the  message  of  re- 
call was  received  by  only  a few  planes  in  the  last  of  its  three  forma- 
tions. Efforts  were  made  by  controllers  in  France  to  pass  the  word  to 
the  airborne  heavies,  but  no  other  means  of  communication  were  avail- 
able save  the  extemporized  use  of  frequencies  on  which  the  heavies 
might  be  listening.  However,  visibility  was  so  poor  that  the  lead  for- 
mation made  no  attack  on  its  primaries.  The  second  found  cloud  con- 
ditions bad,  and  only  thirty-five  aircraft  bombed  after  making  no  less 
than  three  bomb  runs  properly  to  identify  their  target.  Under  slightly 
improved  weather  conditions  the  third  formation  dropped  from  317 
of  its  bombers  before  the  recall  message  was  received,  for  the  most 
part  by  units  which  were  preparing  for  a second  bomb  run.  The 
mediums  of  IX  Bomber  Command,  which  had  been  scheduled  to 
follow  the  heavies  in  their  attack,  received  the  cancellation  order  in 
good  time.4 

The  action  of  24  July,  ineffective  at  best,  was  marred  by  short 
bombing.  A fighter-bomber  caused  casualties  when  it  hit  an  ammuni- 
tion dump  within  friendly  lines.  Its  pilot  had  apparently  picked  up  the 
wrong  landmark  to  guide  his  run.  A single  plane  of  the  2d  Bombard- 
ment Division  bombed  the  Ninth’s  airfield  at  Chippelle,  its  bombardier 
having  struck  the  toggle  switch  in  a reflex  induced  by  the  impact  of  a 
package  of  chaff  on  his  nose  turret;  two  planes,  bomb-loaded  and 
manned,  were  destroyed  and  others  damaged.  In  another  instance,  the 
lead  bombardier  of  a heavy  bomber  formation  had  difficulty  in  mov- 
ing his  bomb  release  mechanism  and  a portion  of  his  load  was  inad- 
vertently salvoed.  Unfortunately,  and  inevitably,  the  other  fifteen  air- 
craft of  the  formation  released  on  their  lead  ship  with  their  bombs 
falling  some  2,200  yards  north  of  the  northern  boundary  of  their  tar- 
get area.  Army  casualties,  chiefly  among  troops  of  the  30th  Infantry 
Division,  were  reported  as  sixteen  killed  and  four  times  that  number 
wounded.  Three  heavies  had  been  lost  to  flak.5 


230 


THE  BATTLE  OF  FRANCE 


COBRA 

The  misadventures  of  24  July  gave  the  enemy  information  as  to  the 
place  and  approximate  time  of  the  impending  attack  and  led  him  to 
withdraw  some  of  his  heavy  artillery  as  far  south  as  Marigny  in  antici- 
pation of  it.  But  there  was  no  alternative  to  carrying  out  a full-scale 
COBRA  on  the  first  good  day.  That  day  proved  to  be  the  very  next, 
for  late  on  the  24th  the  message  went  out  fixing  H-hour  as  “25 1 100B” 
(25  July  1100  hours  British  double  summer  time),  and  the  standing 
orders  for  the  operation  went  into  effect.6 

These  orders  and  their  frequent  amendments  had  been  literally 
streaming  from  the  teletypes  in  the  days  following  19  July.  Product  of 
continued  conferences  between  air  and  ground  commanders,  the  com- 
plicated orders  need  here  to  be  stated  and  explained.  They  are  the  more 
important  since  they  were  followed  to  the  letter  in  the  action  which 
ensued.  Fighter-bomber  groups  under  IX  TAC’s  command  were  to 
begin  the  operation  with  a glide  bombing  and  strafing  attack  on  a 
rectangular  target  2 50  yards  deep  and  7,000  yards  long,  with  its  long 
northern  boundary  just  south  of  the  St.-Lo-Periers  road.  This  was  the 
air  target  nearest  to  American  lines,  and  fighter-bombers  were  assigned 
to  it  because  of  the  Army’s  confidence  in  their  accuracy.  The  eight 
assaulting  groups  were  to  fly  in  column  of  groups,  with  all  squadrons 
in  column  of  flights.  After  assembling  over  their  bases  they  were  to 
check  in  with  the  controller  at  the  Carentan  airstrip  at  three-minute 
intervals,  beginning  at  093 1 hours,  and  proceed  thence  to  their  targets, 
which  had  been  divided  into  eastern  and  western  areas.  The  first  group 
was  to  sweep  the  long  axis  of  the  eastern  area,  the  second  that  of  the 
western,  and  so  on  in  alternation.  As  the  fighter-bombers  completed 
their  blows,  the  heavies  were  to  appear  at  1000  hours  and  in  successive 
waves  deliver  a saturation  attack  on  an  area  one  mile  deep  and  five 
miles  long  paralleling  and  lying  just  south  of  the  fighter-bomber  area. 
The  heavies  had  been  chosen  for  this  role  because  they  could  deliver 
a fire  more  massive  than  could  artillery  in  the  same  space  of  time.  The 
attack  would  be  delivered  at  right  angles  to  the  long  axis  of  the  target 
area  in  order  to  reduce  the  grave  problem  of  flying  more  than  1,500 
heavy  bombers  over  the  target  within  the  space  of  60  minutes.  Even 
then,  and  even  with  the  most  careful  planning  of  times  and  runs,  con- 
gestion was  certain,  as  were  the  added  navigational  difficulties  of 
avoiding  prop  wash  and  converging  courses.  At  1100  hours  VII  Corps 


231 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


was  scheduled  to  jump  off,  and  at  that  instant  an  additional  seven 
groups  of  fighter-bombers  would  renew  the  attack  on  the  eastern  and 
western  segments  of  their  assigned  area.  The  mediums  then  would  di- 
rect their  concentrations  on  strongpoints  and  areas  behind  the  German 
lines  which  were  inaccessible  to  artillery  fire. 

Thus  American  air  resources  were  heavily  committed  to  COBRA— 
the  entire  heavy  bombardment  of  the  Eighth,  the  Ninth’s  mediums, 
and  all  of  the  Ninth’s  fighters.  Fifteen  groups  of  these  fighters  were 
assigned  to  the  preliminary  bombardment,  two  of  the  remaining  three 
groups  were  marked  for  offensive  fighter  operations  during  the  period 
of  the  main  attack,  and  the  third  was  assigned  to  care  for  special  air 
support  requests.  With  the  Ninth  entirely  pledged  to  its  support  role, 
eight  groups  of  VIII  Fighter  Command  were  called  upon  to  give  area 
cover  to  heavies  and  mediums  alike. 

With  the  experience  of  the  24th  in  mind,  further  safety  precau- 
tions were  added  to  those  originally  planned,  and  their  total  appeared 
impressive.  A special  weather  reconnaissance  plane  was  to  fly  into  the 
assault  area  at  0800  hours  and  give  the  Eighth  exact  weather  data  and 
recommendations.  The  heavies  were  ordered  to  bomb  visually,  and  to 
fly  at  the  minimum  altitude  consistent  with  precautions  against  enemy 
flak,  which  it  was  expected  would  be  reduced  by  the  Army’s  prelim- 
inary counterbattery  fire.  The  fact  that  casualties  had  resulted  from 
the  short  bombings  of  the  previous  day  figured  prominently  among 
the  cautions  given  bombardiers,  and  their  target  boundaries  were  to 
be  marked  with  red  smoke  shells  fired  at  two-minute  intervals  or  less. 
Finally,  although  the  Army  had  originally  suggested  withdrawal  of 
ground  troops  to  a distance  of  800  yards  from  the  bomb  line  and  air 
had  urged  3,000  yards,  a compromise  was  struck  at  a clear  zone  of 
1,500  yards,  with  the  Army’s  forward  lines  marked  with  cerise  and 
yellow  panels.7 

From  the  first  fighter-bomber  attack  at  0938  hours  until  the  last  of 
the  mediums’  bombings  at  1223,  the  plans  were  carried  out  on  25  July 
exactly  as  the  intricate  time  schedule  demanded.  Watchers  on  the 
beaches  crossed  by  the  bombers  beheld  the  sky  literally  filled  with 
the  regular  formations  and  had  their  ears  deadened  by  the  steady 
drum  of  the  motors.  A total  of  1,507  B-i7’s  and  B-24’s  attacked, 
dropping  over  3,300  tons;  over  380  mediums  bombed  with  137  tons  of 
high  explosive  and  more  than  4,000  x 260-pound  frags;  while  559 
fighter-bombers  delivered  2 1 2 tons  of  bombs  and  in  addition  a special 

232 


CAMERA  GUNS  RECORD  VICTORIES 

Left:  Attack  on  Me- 109  Right:  Strafing  FW-190 


DIRECT  HIT  ON  AMMUNITION  TRUCK 


WMM: 


B-i  7 BELLY  WOUND  NOT  FATAL 


THE  BAT  T L E OF  FRANCE 


consignment  of  incendiary  napalm.8  Enemy  air  opposition  was  negli- 
gible-small German  formations  made  ineffective  passes  at  two  of  the 
heavy  units,  but  that  was  all.  The  loss  of  five  four-engine  bombers  and 
one  medium  bomber  was  entirely  attributable  to  ground  fire.  Fighter- 
bombers  suffered  no  losses  in  the  course  of  their  swift  attacks  over  the 
enemy  front  lines. 

Technically  viewed,  the  bombing  was  good.  The  mediums  concen- 
trated the  missiles  carried  b\  twenty-one  of  their  thirty  formations  in 
the  proper  target  areas.  The  ist,  2d,  and  3d  Bombardment  Divisions 
of  the  Eighth  Air  Force  likewise  covered  their  targets  well,  in  spite  of 
the  fact  that  they  had  been  confronted  with  a somewhat  perplexing 
situation.  Their  preplanned  bombing  altitudes  had  been  fixed  between 

15.000  and  16,000  feet,  but  the  known  base  of  medium  cloud  over  the 
target  area  on  25  July  forced  readjustment  of  these  plans  after  most 
of  the  aircraft  were  airborne.  Actually  some  bombed  from  as  low  as 

12.000  feet  and  few  if  any  from  the  predetermined  height;  a fact 
which  caused  most  bombardiers  to  recompute  hurriedly  their  bomb- 
ing data  and  reset  their  sights.  Moreover,  the  drop  to  the  new  and 
lower  bombing  levels  loosened  formations.  This  added  to  the  strain  on 
pilots  and  was  the  more  perilous  because  of  the  crowded  air  over  the 
target  area.  It  also  tended  to  produce  elongated  bomb  patterns  as  units 
dropped  on  their  leaders.  Smoke  markers  proved  of  little  value.  At 
best  they  were  not  visible  until  their  smoke  drifted  high,  and  then  the 
prevailing  south  wind  quickly  displaced  it.  Furthermore,  once  the 
attack  had  begun  and  great  clouds  of  dust  and  smoke  billowed  up 
from  the  target  area,  red  smoke  was  difficult  to  distinguish  from  shell 
and  bomb  bursts  or  from  the  muzzle  flashes  of  American  artillery. 
Under  such  circumstances  it  is  remarkable  that  ORS  experts,  after 
elaborate  scrutiny  of  records  and  strike  photographs,  found  that 
bombing  errors  were  actually  less  than  had  been  anticipated  in  an 
operation  of  this  type.  This  does  not  mean  that  all  bombs  were  placed 
in  the  target  areas.  Partly  because  formations  could  not  be  kept  tight, 
and  partly  because  of  extreme  precautions  taken  against  short  bomb- 
ing, approximately  one-half  of  the  ist  Bombardment’s  loads  was  de- 
livered south  of  the  prescribed  destination.  Spillage  on  the  part  of 
other  formations  extended  both  to  the  east  and  west  of  their  targets, 
and  bombs  from  seventeen  units  fell  in  the  clear  zone  from  which 
American  troops  had  been  withdrawn. 

Gross  errors  in  bombardment  had  been  anticipated,  and  the  prob- 

- 1 3 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

ability  of  their  occurrence  was  known  to  both  air  and  ground  com- 
manders. They  occurred  on  25  July  and  they  were  costly.  The  lead 
bombardier  of  one  formation  had  trouble  with  his  bombsight  and  re- 
leased visually  with  bad  results;  another  failed  properly  to  identify 
vital  landmarks,  and  the  command  pilot  of  a third  formation,  failing 
to  observe  the  order  that  bombing  was  to  be  by  groups,  ordered 
“Bombs  away”  when  his  wing  leader  dropped  in  the  cleared  zone,  and 
his  own  unit  perforce  followed  his  example.  Thus  frags  and  HE  from 
a total  of  thirty-five  heavies  fell  north  of  the  target  areas  and  within 
American  lines.  As  early  as  1040  hours  reports  from  the  continent  to 
air  headquarters  in  England  told  of  short  bombing  as  far  back  as 
American  artillery  positions,  and  though  the  hour  was  late,  efforts 
were  made  again  to  caution  those  formations  of  heavies  which  had  not 
as  yet  bombed.  Mediums  of  IX  Bomber  Command  likewise  short- 
bombed,  with  forty-two  aircraft  dropping  within  friendly  lines  be- 
cause of  faulty  identification  of  target.  All  the  gross  errors  on  25  July 
were  classified  as  personnel  errors.  Their  cost  was  reported  to  be  102 
army  personnel  killed,  including  Lt.  Gen.  Lesley  J.  McNair,  and  380 
wounded.  Again,  as  on  the  24th,  casualties  were  concentrated  in  the 
ranks  of  the  30th  Infantry  Division.9 

Air’s  effort  on  25  July  had  been  great,  but  military  results  are 
measured  in  terms  of  accomplishment  rather  than  in  terms  of  energy 
expended.  The  results  of  the  air  bombardment  were  definitely  not  all 
that  optimists  hoped  for,  but  foe  and  friend  agree  that  they  were  of 
more  than  ordinary  stature.  Enemy  casualties  were  not  extensive;  in 
fact,  they  appeared  small  in  view  of  the  weight  of  aerial  bombardment 
coupled  with  artillery’s  preparatory  fires.*  Two  factors  help  to  ex- 
plain this  discrepancy.  The  first  is  the  Germans’  use  of  deep  communi- 
cation trenches  and  equally  deep  individual  shelters.  The  second  is  the 
desire  of  the  Army  to  avoid  unnecessary  cratering,  which  caused  a 
high  percentage  of  frags  to  be  mixed  in  with  high-explosive  GP’s. 
Direct  hits  were  necessary  to  produce  casualties,  for  a man  in  a shelter 
two  feet  from  a crater  rim  was  safe  from  any  effect  save  that  of  con- 
cussion. Enemy  evidence  and  that  of  Allied  officials  who  later 
examined  the  battlefield  indicate  that  thin-skinned  vehicles  were 
shredded  and  that  the  treads  of  armor  were  broken  by  flying  frag- 
ments of  steel.  Where  weapons  were  not  destroyed  they  could  not  be 

* The  war  diary  of  the  German  Seventh  Army  in  its  entry  for  25  July  constitutes 
an  exception  to  this  rule  for  it  records  heavy  losses  in  the  MLR  and  in  artillery. 

234 


TUT  BATTLE  OF  FRANCE 


used  until  after  they  had  been  cleaned  of  the  dirt  in  which  they  were 
sometimes  buried.  The  enemy  alleged  that  much  heavy  material  was 
withdrawn  to  the  rear  after  the  bombing  commenced,  but  he  was  em- 
phatic in  his  insistence  that  craters  on  main  roads  impeded  movement 
both  from  and  to  the  battle  lines. 

Prisoner-of-war  interrogations  are  in  full  agreement  that  the  de- 
struction of  communications  and  of  morale  was  very  great.  Loss  of 
communications  had  its  immediate  tactical  effects  since  it  left  units 
without  contact  with  the  rear  and  without  knowledge  of  what  was 
happening  on  their  flanks  at  a time  when  the  dust  cloud  limited  visual 
observation.  Units  fell  out  of  control  when  men  were  separated  from 
CP’s  and  from  their  officers  and  NCO’s;  one  group  of  four  enemy 
tanks  ran  up  the  white  flag  before  the  ground  assault  had  been 
launched.  But  above  all,  the  destruction  of  communications  bred  a 
feeling  of  isolation  among  forw  ard  units  which  added  to  the  shock 
effect  of  the  bombardment  itself.  This  shock  pervaded  the  entire 
bombed  area  for,  as  Army  Group  B laconically  recited,  the  bombard- 
ment consisted  of  “bomb  carpets  of  hitherto  unknown  dimensions.” 
Battle-tried  and  raw  troops  alike  appear  to  have  been  affected;  the 
younger  men  of  both  groups  being  the  quickest  to  recover.  Too  easily 
overlooked,  but  repeatedly  stressed  by  the  enemy,  was  the  shattering 
effect  on  morale  produced  bv  the  very  appearance  of  such  a multitude 
of  hostile  planes  overhead,  w ith  no  G AK  anywhere  in  evidence.  They 
came  on  “like  a conveyer  belt,”  and  Afrika  Korps  veterans  labeled 
them  Partei-Tag  GeschivaJer , with  reference  to  the  wrell-aligned 
squadrons  which  had  flown  in  dress  parade  over  Niirnberg  rallies  in 
the  peacetime  period  of  Nazi  rule.  Morale  was  thus  hard  hit  even  be- 
fore the  “bomb  carpets  began  to  unroll  in  great  rectangles.”10 

Maj.  Gen.  Fritz  Bayerlein,  commander  of  Panzer  Lehr  Division,  wras 
later  to  give  a vivid  picture  of  his  experiences  on  this  day.  He  w'as  a 
seasoned  front-line  soldier— a tough  tanker— and  his  statements  have 
the  hallmark  of  veracity,  although  they  cannot  serve  as  the  basis  for 
broad  generalization.  His  communications  had  been  destroyed  in  the 
first  air  attacks,  and  as  the  heavies  began  to  come  over  soon  after  1000 
hours,  he  set  out  on  the  pillion  of  a motorcycle  to  visit  his  advanced 
CP  at  Le  Mesnil  Amey.  There  he  observed  the  later  stages  of  the 
bombing  from  a stone  tower  with  walls  two  meters  thick.  What  he 
could  see  of  the  battlefield  he  termed  a Mondlandschaft  (a  lunar  land- 
scape). What  he  found  there  and  at  Hebecrevon  and  other  points 


235 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

which  he  personally  visited  was  half  of  his  three  batteries  of  88-mm. 
AA  guns  knocked  out  and  his  forward  tanks  pitched  into  craters  or 
disabled  by  direct  hits  and  by  blasts  which  had  thrown  them  on  their 
backs.  Communications  both  with  his  own  regiments  and  with  the 
corps  was  by  runner  only,  and  70  per  cent  of  his  personnel  was  “either 
dead,  wounded,  crazed  or  dazed.”  Not  until  nightfall,  when  his  for- 
ward lines  had  been  overrun,  was  he  able  to  gather  together  a small 
combat  group  from  his  scattered  and  shattered  division.11  In  retro- 
spect, von  Rundstedt  regarded  the  St.-Lo  bombing  as  “the  most  effec- 
tive, as  well  as  the  most  impressive,  tactical  use  of  air  power  in  his 
experience.”12 

The  findings  of  American  ground  forces  with  respect  to  the  results 
of  air’s  part  in  COBRA  were  stated  with  a moderation  both  natural 
and  proper.  XIX  Corps  voiced  its  doubts  as  to  the  material  assistance 
rendered  the  ground  assault  by  air’s  strikes.13  Other  organizations 
agreed  with  the  enemy’s  statements  that  disorganization  was  the  most 
apparent  result  of  saturation  bombing.  The  2d  Armored  Division 
noted  shortcomings  in  the  operation,  among  them  the  fact  that  the 
withdrawal  to  produce  a safety  zone  was  closely  followed  up  by  the 
enemy,  with  the  result  that  the  1,500  yards  given  up  had  to  be  re- 
gained by  fighting.  And  American  armor,  like  enemy  panzers,  re- 
gretted the  cratering  of  main  highways,  where  damage  done  by  500- 
pound  GP’s  required  the  services  of  engineers  before  advance  was 
possible.  This  emergency,  however,  had  been  foreseen,  and  the  engi- 
neers were  on  hand  to  do  the  job.14  The  4th  Infantry  Division  had 
been  bombed,  but  in  its  advance  it  encountered  only  small-arms  fire. 
The  30th  Infantry  Division  not  only  had  been  short-bombed  on  two 
successive  days  but  enemy-inflicted  casualties  among  its  infantry  and 
tanks  were  the  heaviest  suffered  by  any  American  division.  One  of  its 
leading  infantry  battalions  was  delayed  in  moving  until  reorganized 
and  reinforced,  but  its  armor  was  able  to  move  out  at  once  and  assist 
in  overcoming  Panzer  Lehr’s  resistance  at  Hebecrevon,  in  spite  of  the 
fact  that  the  division  encountered  enemy  artillery  fire  from  the  south- 
east as  it  assaulted.  Maj.  Gen.  Leland  S.  Hobbs,  commanding  this  divi- 
sion, was  early  at  pains  to  point  out  that  similar,  and  hence  confusing, 
landmarks,  together  with  the  wind  which  funneled  the  smoke  cloud  to 
the  north  of  the  St.-LA-Periers  road,  helped  to  explain  the  bombers’ 
errors.15 

Because  of  casualties  inflicted  by  friendly  planes,  one  leading  battal- 
236 


THF  RATTLE  OF  FRANCE 


ion  of  9th  Infantry  Division  also  required  reinforcements,  and  its  ad- 
vance was  delayed  from  one  to  one  and  one-half  hours,  during  which 
time  German  SS  troops  and  paratroopers  organized  the  most  serious 
resistance  which  the  division  encountered.  The  9th’s  other  assault 
units  attacked  immediately  after  the  aerial  bombardment,  gained 
ground,  and  went  through  their  objectives.  At  the  moment  of  action 
this  division  rated  air’s  performance  as  very  unsatisfactory.  The  divi- 
sion had  anticipated  that  its  men  would  “walk  unharmed  through  the 
bombed  area,”  but  had  found  that  they  met  with  a fair  volume  of  fire. 
Later  judgment  was  of  another  order.  The  9th  observed  that  its  own 
morale  remained  high,  while  that  of  the  enemy  “was  definitely 
broken”  and  his  defense  installations,  communications,  and  supplies 
badly  disrupted.  Even  “though  the  results  were  not  what  we  had  ex- 
pected, it  never  occurred  to  us  that  we  could  fail  after  the  use  of  such 
mass  aircraft.”16  VII  Corps  chronicled,  as  it  must,  losses  at  the  hands 
of  friends  and  listed  the  disorganization  and  the  drop  in  morale  which 
resulted,  but  voiced  the  opinion  that  “our  losses  would  have  been 
infinitely  greater,  and  our  success  would  perhaps  never  have  material- 
ized if  it  had  not  been  for  the  all  over  effectiveness  of  this  heavy  bom- 
bardment.”17 

Five  months  after  the  action,  when  an  airman  raised  a question  as  to 
air’s  efficacy  on  25  July,  Eisenhower  was  to  declare  that  it  was  impos- 
sible “to  convince  the  Army  that  the  battle  of  St.-Lo  had  not  been 
won  as  a result  of  the  direct  support  given  by  the  Eighth  Air  Force.”18 
Later  still,  von  Rundstedt  was  to  attribute  the  American  success  to 
the  air  bombardment,  the  w eakness  of  the  battered  German  ground 
forces,  and  to  the  initiative  of  Allied  armor  and  infantry.19  FUSA,  in 
its  after-action  report,  followed  the  same  general  line  as  the  enemy 
commander.20 

The  obvious  defects  of  COBRA  were  made  the  subject  of  im- 
mediate and  continued  study.  Means  were  sought  to  shorten  the  time 
interval  between  the  cessation  of  bombing  and  infantry’s  advance, 
since  at  St.-Lo  some  enemy  units  had  recovered  from  shock  and  re- 
organized their  positions  before  American  troops  closed  with  them. 
A special  ORS  study  on  bomb  fuzings  for  this  special  type  of  bomb- 
ing was  soon  published  and  became  standard.  The  training  of  bom- 
bardiers was  intensified  as  the  desire  for  heightened  efficiency  and  the 
steady  inflow  of  replacements  alike  demanded.  The  search  for  better 
bomb-line  and  target  markers  was  carried  on,  and  efforts  were  made 

237 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

to  establish  a closer  association  of  Eighth  Air  Force  and  ground  forces 
when  the  former  was  functioning  in  a tactical  role.  The  hunt  was  kept 
up  to  find  the  as  yet  missing  link  in  communications  and  control: 
effective  radio  contact  between  ground  controllers  and  bombers  fly- 
ing an  air  support  mission.21 

Air’s  role  in  COBRA  was  by  no  means  limited  to  the  mass  bombard- 
ment of  2 5 July.  With  the  intent  of  rendering  general  support,  Second 
TAF  had  flown  armed  recces  in  the  battle  zone  during  the  morning  of 
the  25  th,  and  in  the  afternoon  it  continued  them,  in  some  cases  oper- 
ating in  what  was  normally  an  American  area  of  responsibility.22  On 
that  same  afternoon  IX  Bomber  Command  gave  its  attention  to  four 
targets  in  the  line  of  interdiction,  and  IX  Fighter  Command  flew  four 
missions  of  group  strength  against  rail  lines  well  beyond  the  battle 
zone,  while  planes  under  the  operational  control  of  IX  TAC  pursued 
their  steady  course  of  air  support  in  cooperation  with  FUSA.  The 
battle  front  was  still  too  fluid  to  admit  of  much  close  support,  and 
consequently  request  missions  were  few.  But  armed  recces  in  the 
battle  area  were  constant  during  the  remaining  daylight  hours  of  25 
July.  Thirteen  such  missions  in  squadron  strength  were  flown  between 
1135  and  2104  hours,  with  pilots  selecting  the  usual  wide  variety  of 
targets.  They  hit  a bridge  over  the  Sienne,  in  the  neighborhood  of 
Gavray,  and  bombed  and  strafed  ammunition  and  fuel  dumps  in  prox- 
imity to  the  battlefield.  When  roads  near  St.-Gilles  were  dive-bombed, 
the  resulting  explosions  suggested  that  a jackpot  had  been  hit.  Steeple 
OP’s  were  again  singled  out  and  two  in  the  combat  zone  were  de- 
molished. IX  TAC  rounded  out  its  day  with  four  missions  designed  to 
render  enemy  night  traffic  hazardous  by  dropping  bombs  fuzed  for 
delays  of  from  one  to  twelve  hours  on  crossroads  in  the  vicinity  of 
Coutances.  Alone  among  the  Ninth’s  fighter-bombers  this  day,  the 
406th  Group  encountered  enemy  aircraft.  Some  of  its  planes  met  fif- 
teen of  the  GAF  over  Lisieux  and  claimed  four  destroyed  for  the 
loss  of  one  missing. 

The  Air-Tank  Team 

Infantry  had  figured  most  conspicuously  in  breaking  the  hard  crust 
of  the  enemy’s  positions  on  25  July,  although  on  occasion  armor  had 
“punched  its  own  hole.”  Planners  had  anticipated  this  success  and  had 
assigned  two  armored  divisions  and  one  of  motorized  infantry  to  exploit 
it.  Their  orders  were  to  plunge  south  along  the  main  road  to  Marigny 

238 


I H F B A 1 1 1.  K Oh  FRAN  C F. 


and  that  to  St.-Gilles,  and  thence  drive  to  objectives  lying  to  the 
southwest.  In  anticipation  of  these  movements  by  two  combat  com- 
mands from  each  of  the  two  armored  divisions  committed  to  the  ac- 
tion, IX  TAC  had  developed  plans  for  the  closest  kind  of  cooperation 
with  the  four  armored  columns.  These  plans  were  put  into  operation 
on  i6  July  as  VIII  Corps,  and  then  XIX  and  V Corps  together  with 
the  British  right,  joined  with  Yll  Corps  in  the  drive  south.  As  IX 
TAC’s  orders  bearing  the  date  of  20  July  were  tested,  and  improve- 
ments in  their  provisions  were  made  in  the  light  of  experience,  air  began 
to  write  a new  and  brilliant  page  in  the  history  of  close  support. 
Armored  column  cover  (ACC)  became  a standard  procedure,  and  the 
air-armored  team  began  the  swift  and  effective  action  which  it  con- 
tinued until  the  Siegfried  Line  was  reached.23 

A technical  innovation  had  much  to  do  with  the  new  team’s  suc- 
cess. As  the  plans  for  COBRA  were  maturing,  the  suggestion  was  ad- 
vanced by  Quesada  that  air  cover  of  armored  columns  would  be  ren- 
dered more  effective  if  an  air  support  party  (ASP)  were  put  in  each 
tank  column  and  equipped  with  an  air  force  type  VHP  radio  to  make 
two-way  communication  possible  between  the  tanks  and  their  escort- 
ing planes.*  Quesada’s  suggestion  was  welcomed  by  Bradley,  and  Ord- 
nance was  directed  to  send  a tank  to  IX  TAC  for  a trial  installation. 
Through  mischance  the  Sherman  was  dispatched  to  an  armored  divi- 
sion which  promptly  swallowed  it.  Its  failure  to  appear  at  its  proper 
destination  caused  a second  Sherman  to  roll  up  to  IX  TAC’s  head- 
quarters, but  since  no  one  on  the  spot  knew  what  to  do  with  it,  it  was 
returned  to  Ordnance  with  thanks.  Higher  command,  now  thorough- 
ly agitated,  managed  to  retrieve  the  second  tank  and  an  SCR  of  proper 
type  was  promptly  installed.  Tests  showed  that  the  capabilities  of  the 
device  were  so  great  that  other  installations  wrere  expedited  with  a 
top-priority  rating  which  both  Armv  Ordnance  and  IX  A FSC  ob- 
served.24 

The  basic  principles  in  the  first  of  the  ACC  orders  remained  essen- 
tially unchanged  throughout  the  remainder  of  the  war  in  F.urope. 
“Each  of  the  rapidly  advancing  columns  will  be  covered  at  all  times 
by  a four  ship  flight . . . [which]  will  maintain  a close  armed  recce  in 
advance  of  the  . . . column.  They  may  attack  any  target  which  is  iden- 
tified as  enemy,  directing  their  attention  to  the  terrain  immediately  in 

* Air  support  parties  later  came  to  In'  designated  as  tactical  air  liaison  officers 
(TAI.OS),  but  the  earlier  designation,  cumin  at  this  period,  is  here  einploved, 

239 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

front  of  the  advancing  column.  The  combat  command  commander 
may  monitor  [radio]  channel  ‘C’  to  receive  any  information  transmit- 
ted by  the  flight  of  FBs  which  is  covering  him.  [He]  may  also  request 
this  flight  to  attack  targets  immediately  in  front  of  him.  Targets  which 
require  more  strength  than  the  four  ship  flight  will  be  passed  back 
through  ASP  channels,  and  the  mission  will  be  accomplished  by  FBs 
on  ground  alert.”  The  call  signs  given  to  ground  units  were  added  to 
flyers’  vocabularies— 2d  Armored  Division  was  “Abtide”  and  its  com- 
bat commands  “Cutbreak”  and  “Murphy”;  3d  Armored  Division  was 
“Instand”  and  its  fighting  units  “Poodle”  and  “Bronco.”  The  plan  was 
simple,  and  possibly  on  that  very  account,  it  worked  with  a singular 
perfection.25 

On  the  very  first  day  that  such  cover  was  provided,  four  groups 
dispatched  a total  of  seventy-two  squadron  missions  of  the  type 
ordered,  with  368th  Fighter-Bomber  Group  alone  sending  out  twen- 
ty-five. This  rate  of  performance  was  maintained,  or  exceeded,  on 
good  flying  days  during  the  critical  period  from  26  to  31  July.  IX 
TAC  could  not  have  maintained  that  rate  and  at  the  same  time  have 
performed  its  other  tactical  duties  had  not  the  labors  of  IX  Engineer 
Command  enabled  it  to  base  sixteen  of  its  fighter-bomber  groups  to- 
gether with  P/R  and  Tac/R  units  on  Normandy  airfields  by  the  end  of 
the  month.  The  new  fields  were  plagued  with  dust  which  not  even 
Hessian  mat  could  keep  down,  but  ground  crews  worked  their  mira- 
cles of  rearming,  refueling,  and  maintenance  notwithstanding. 

Detailed  records  of  the  methods  employed  and  of  the  extent  of  air’s 
achievement  in  ACC  are  of  an  elusive  character,  for  their  original 
form  was  the  conversations  between  tank  commanders  and  their  air 
advisers  on  the  ground  and  flight  leaders  in  the  air  above  them.  But  in 
the  closing  days  of  July,  when  the  procedure  was  still  novel,  some 
records,  fortunately,  were  preserved.  “Is  the  road  safe  for  us  to  pro- 
ceed?” was  the  question  radioed  on  one  occasion  from  tank  to  plane. 
“Stand  by  and  we’ll  find  out,”  came  the  answer,  and  in  their  ensuing 
sweep  the  four  P~47’s  spotted  as  many  enemy  tanks  on  the  road  ahead 
and  put  them  out  of  action.  Returning  to  the  air  over  their  column, 
the  planes  radioed:  “All  clear.  Proceed  at  will.”  When  radio  jammed, 
tanks  used  shells  or  machine-gun  tracers  to  mark  the  target  they  de- 
sired attacked  and  got  results.  On  another  occasion  a single  Sherman 
was  threatened  with  destruction  at  the  hands  of  German  panzers,  but 
the  covering  planes  observed  its  plight  and  managed  to  disperse  the 


240 


T H T RAT  I I.  F.  OF  FRANCE 


enemy.  In  response  to  a column  commander’s  request,  the  road  ahead 
of  him  was  swept  with  fire.  The  planes  then  radioed,  “Co  ahead,”  but 
instantly  recalled  that  direction.  “There’s  one  we  missed.  Tank  at 
right  side  of  road.  Next  building  up.  200  yards.”  Dive  bombing  elimi- 
nated the  enemy  block,  and  the  ground  column  got  under  way  again. 
To  take  one  other  example,  the  crew  of  a German  tank  fired  by  straf- 
ing was  last  seen  surrendering  to  the  American  column.  Such  evidence 
of  continuous  ACC,  drawn  from  the  experience  of  the  Ninth  Air 
Force’s  fighter-bomber  squadrons,  at  least  indicates  the  intimacy  pre- 
vailing in  this  growing  association  of  armor  and  accompanying  air- 
craft.20 

Pilots  diving  to  attack  with  bombs  or  machine-gun  fire,  and  as 
swiftly  regaining  altitude,  were  not  in  a favorable  position  to  observe 
the  exact  results  of  their  own  strikes,  and  their  claims  were  often  in- 
exact and  exaggerated.  But  on  many  occasions  apparently  inflated  re- 
ports were  proven  to  be  sober  truth,  and  even  the  exaggerations  are 
meaningful,  for  they  accurately7  reflect  the  exaltation  of  American  air- 
men engaged,  as  they  put  it,  in  “hazing  the  Hun.”  Claims  poured  in, 
beginning  with  the  first  dav  of  ACC,  and  they  mounted  steadilv.  On 
2 6 July  individual  flights  included  in  their  reports  such  items  as  fifteen 
rockets  fired,  two  tanks  destroved,  one  probably  destroyed,  one  rank 
destroyed  by  strafing;  eight  bombs  on  two  Mark  VI  tanks,  left  burning; 
two  Tigers  holding  up  our  advance  dive-bombed  with  poor  results, 
then  strafed  and  destroyed.  The  flyers  were  catholic  in  their  choice  of 
targets  with  claim  lists  for  this  and  the  ensuing  days  including  staff  cars, 
buildings,  truck  convoys,  and,  increasingly,  horse-drawn  artillery  and 
horsed  vehicles  crowded  together  on  the  roads  leading  south. 

The  armor  of  VII  Corps,  together  with  escorting  planes,  had  taken 
the  lead  in  the  breakout  on  26  July,  plunging  along  the  roads  front 
Marigny  and  St.-Gilles  to  points  beyond  Percy  and  Gavrav.  Thanks 
to  this  aggressive  thrust, to  the  southwest,  VIII  Corps,  on  going  into 
action  a day  later,  encountered  less  enemy  resistance,  and  once  under 
way,  its  columns  moved  even  faster  than  those  of  the  corps  on  its  left. 
VIII  Corps  vehicles,  with  the  identifying  circled  star  on  their  tops 
freshly  painted,  pushed  straight  south  along  the  highway  which  paral- 
lels the  western  Normandy  coast,  for  FUSA  had  revised  its  plans  and 
the  pursuit  was  continued  without  halt.  Lessay  and  Periers,  Courances 
and  Avranches,  Pontaubault  and  Ducey  were  successively  entered  as 
the  enemy’s  western  flank  withdrew  in  disorder.  The  Germans,  per- 


241 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

force,  threw  caution  to  the  winds  and  moved  in  daylight.  No  mere 
solitary  motorcyclists  on  the  roads  now,  but  close-packed  columns— 
lucrative  targets  for  IX  TAC’s  fighter-bombers.  Air’s  resources  were 
sufficient  to  exploit  the  situation  as  it  developed,  and  armed  recce  in 
the  battle  area  was  the  standard  instrument  chosen.  The  scale  on  which 
such  action  developed  is  remarkable.  On  26  July,  sixteen  such  armed 
recces  were  ordered  with  eight  aircraft  participating  in  each.  The  next 
day  saw  seventeen  undertaken  in  varying  strength.  Ten  more  were 
staged  on  the  28th,  six  on  the  day  following,  and  a single  one  on  the 
30th.  Results  were  substantial  in  the  case  of  most  missions,  but  it  was 
the  405th  Fighter-Bomber  Group  which,  on  29  July,  furnished  the 
highlight  of  a lively  period.27 

This  group  had  been  ordered  to  fly  armed  reconnaissance  of  the 
battlefield  throughout  the  day,  but  bad  weather  barred  operations  in 
the  morning.  In  the  afternoon  it  cleared  and  P-47’s  took  off  from  Pi- 
cauville  and  directed  their  course  to  the  Villedieu  area.  There  they 
found  few  targets,  but  as  the  flight  circled  back  toward  Coutances 
they  saw  a mass  of  traffic  on  the  roads,  at  times  moving  bumper  to 
bumper,  and  they  began  to  work  it  over  systematically.  Between  Ron- 
cev  and  St.-Denis-le-Vetu  they  discovered  one  column  blocked  on 
the  east  by  elements  of  2d  Armored  Division  and  on  the  west  by  ele- 
ments from  the  3d.  Here  was  a fighter-bomber’s  paradise.  The  first 
flight  to  attack  radioed  the  home  controller  to  that  effect,  and  opera- 
tions were  immediately  laid  on  which  caused  the  group  to  rotate  its 
squadrons  over  the  target  throughout  the  long  afternoon.  From  1510 
to  2140  flights  attacked,  returned  to  base,  refueled  and  rearmed,  and 
took  off  to  attack  again.  In  the  midst  of  the  melee  a general  shouted  over 
his  tank  radio:  “Go  to  it!  Get  one  for  me!”  The  target,  extending  over 
a road  distance  of  more  than  three  miles,  was  an  extraordinary  one. 
Two  days  after  the  action,  American  columns  found  the  road  impass- 
able, and  Army  reports  substantiated  the  pilots’  claim  with  a list  of  66 
tanks,  204  vehicles,  and  1 1 guns  destroyed,  and  56  tanks  and  55  vehi- 
cles damaged  by  the  combined  action  of  American  artillery,  tanks,  and 
planes.  No  wonder  that,  on  returning  to  Picauville  after  delivering  his 
attack,  one  youthful  pilot  had  ejaculated:  “I  have  been  to  two  church 
socials  and  a county  fair,  but  I never  saw  anything  like  this  before!”28 

The  scale  of  IX  TAC’s  tactical  effort  in  the  period  from  25  through 
3 1 July  was  unusual,  even  for  that  command.  Its  operations  in  that 
week  were  at  times  restricted  by  weather,  yet  its  sorties  totaled  9,840, 

242 


THE  BATTLE  OF  FRANCE 


of  which  6 55  were  reconnaissance  flights.  It  dropped  over  2,000  tons 
of  bombs  and  claimed  the  destruction  of  67  enemy  aircraft  in  encoun- 
ters. Seventy-eight  of  its  own  planes  had  been  destroyed,  ten  of  them 
in  air  combat.29 


Pursuit  and  Encirclement 

American  G-2’s  and  A-2-s  depleted  their  stocks  of  grease  pencils  in 
their  effort  to  depict  the  rapidly  developing  situation  of  26  July  to 
1 August  on  the  acetate  coverings  of  their  situation  maps.  At  the  out- 
set of  that  period  the  German  Seventh  Army  had  acknowledged  a 
“serious  breakthrough”  on  the  St.-Lo  front,  and  had  ascribed  it  in 
part  to  the  “enemy’s  concentrated  employment  of  air  power”  which 
checked  the  concentration  of  German  reserves.30  At  the  end  of  the 
period,  the  situation  maps  left  no  doubt  in  anyone’s  mind  that  the 
breakout  was  solid  fact.  Aside  from  one  brief  interlude,  the  military 
themes  of  the  August  battles  west  of  the  Seine  were  to  be  the  pursuit 
and  encirclement  of  a defeated  and  disorganized  enemy. 

American  forces,  ground  and  air  alike,  played  a major  role  in  devel- 
oping both  these  themes.  Their  action  was  as  swift  as  their  mass  was 
great.  They  functioned  the  more  effectively  because  in  the  early  days 
of  August  their  organization  was  perfected  in  a manner  long  planned. 
FUSA  continued  active  with  three  corps  under  its  command,  but  on 
1 August  the  U.S.  Third  Army  (TUSA),  initially  comprising  four 
corps,  became  operational  under  the  command  of  Lr.  Gen.  George  S. 
Patton,  Jr.  On  the  same  day  Bradley’s  12th  Army  Group  formally  as- 
sumed immediate  command  over  the  two  armies  from  headquarters 
recently  established  at  St.-Sauveur-Lendelin,  and  its  first  letter  of  in- 
structions31 contained  the  following  information  under  the  heading 
“Supporting  Forces”: 

(1)  Air  Force 

Ninth  Air  Force  supports  the  Twelfth  Army  Group 

IX  Tactical  Air  Command  will  be  in  direct  support  of  h irsr  Army 

XIX  Tactical  Air  Command  will  be  in  direct  support  of  Third  Armv 

IX  TAC,  therefore,  continued  an  old  association.  A firm  plan  for 
air  support  on  the  ensuing  day  issued,  as  previously,  from  the  daily 
joint  conference  at  its  headquarters  at  1930  hours,  and  in  urgent  cases 
Army  requests  could  be  answered  with  a lapse  of  only  sixty  to  eighty 
minutes  from  the  time  the  request  was  received  until  planes  were  over 
their  targets.32  XIX  TAC,  under  the  command  of  Brig.  Gen.  Otto  P. 

:43 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

Weyland,  became  operational  according  to  plan*  on  the  same  day  as 
TUSA,  with  headquarters  established  in  close  proximity  to  Patton’s. 
From  the  start,  the  association  of  the  organizations  in  the  Combined 
Operations  Section  and  in  their  respective  headquarters  was  both 
friendly  and  effective.  Three  groups  initially  were  assigned  to  XIX 
TAC,  but  the  flexibility  of  the  American  air  organization  was  ac- 
cented by  the  fact  that  the  final  allocation  of  fighter-bomber  groups 
between  IX  and  XIX  TAC  was  left  for  their  commanders  to  deter- 
mine.33 

Under  this  new  dispensation,  it  was  essential  that  the  advanced 
headquarters  of  Ninth  Air  Force  be  brought  into  immediate  contact 
with  that  of  the  1 2th  Army  Group.  Accordingly,  its  operational  head- 
quarters at  Uxbridge  and  the  phantom  advanced  headquarters  which 
had  existed  at  Grandcamp  les  Bains  since  8 June  were  closed  at  2400 
hours  on  5 August,  and  a single  advanced  headquarters  was  opened  at 
St.-Sauveur-Lendelin  at  000 1 hours  the  following  day.  Army  and  air 
signal  organizations  had  provided  the  many  necessary  installations,  and 
thereafter  the  planning  and  supervision  of  the  Ninth’s  operations  were 
conducted  in  close  collaboration  with  the  air  section  of  the  12th 
Army  Group.  A huge  circus  tent,  with  attendant  trailers,  provided  the 
scene  of  activity,  and  its  site,  in  an  open  field  with  little  or  no  camou- 
flage, offered  indisputable  evidence  that  the  associated  units  enjoyed 
the  full  advantage  of  air  superiority.  The  joint  labors  of  those  who 
toiled  within  the  tent  led  to  the  steady  perfection  of  air  support,  and 
hence  of  means  to  apply  air  power  with  tactical  effect.  A-2’s  and 
G-2’s,  A-3’s  and  G~3’s  pooled  their  information  and  devised  joint 
plans.  Briefings  twice  a day  saw  Army  depict  the  ground  situation  and 
air  relate  the  results  of  its  recent  efforts.  Ground  then  presented  its 
requests  and  with  air  arrived  at  an  allocation  of  available  strength  and 
a determination  of  the  air  plan.  Thanks  to  the  existence  of  full  infor- 
mation at  advanced  headquarters,  these  plans  at  army  group-air 
force  level  were  devised  in  a fashion  which  allowed  an  ample  exercise 
of  initiative  by  the  associated  TAC’s  and  armies. 

At  approximately  the  same  moment  that  this  reorganization 
occurred,  a change  of  command  was  effected  in  the  Ninth  Air  Force. 
In  June  the  establishment  of  an  Allied  airborne  force  had  been  ap- 
proved, and  Eisenhower  had  signified  his  wish  that  an  American  air- 
man should  command  it.  Teletypes  exchanged  between  Marshall, 

• See  above,  pp.  112,  141. 

244 


THE  BATTLE  OF  FRANCE 


Arnold,  and  Giles  in  Washington  and  Eisenhower,  Smith,  and  Spaatz 
in  ETO  narrowed  down  the  list  of  possibilities,  as  it  became  evident 
that  certain  individuals  could  not  be  freed  from  current  duties  or 
lacked  the  required  combat  experience.  The  choice  was  further  re- 
stricted by  the  fact  that  it  was  desirable  that  the  American  commander 
should  possess  a rank  equivalent  to  that  of  the  senior  British  officers 
with  whom  he  would  be  associated.  After  nearly  a month  had  passed, 
it  was  determined  that  Brereton,  who  had  commanded  the  Ninth  since 
its  inception,  should  assume  command  of  the  new  First  Allied  Airborne 
Army;  that  Maj,  Gen.  Hoyt  S.  Vandenberg  should  succeed  him  in 
command  of  the  Ninth;  and  that  Maj.  Gen.  Ralph  Royce  should 
follow  Vandenberg  as  Deputy  Commander,  AEAF.®4 

Under  its  new  as  under  its  old  commander  the  Ninth’s  design  and 
function  were  supremely  tactical.  The  design  was  logical,  and  the  tac- 
tical functioning  of  the  entire  force  improved  as  pilots  and  ground 
crews  alike  gained  in  experience  and  as  commanders  from  group  to  air 
force  learned  valuable  lessons  in  the  same  school.  A greater  under- 
standing of  one  another’s  needs  and  capabilities  was  required  at  all 
army  and  air  force  levels,  and  a greater  tolerance.  Both  could  only  be 
produced  by  the  greater  knowledge  resulting  from  the  intimate  asso- 
ciation of  all  parties  concerned,  from  commanding  generals  down  to 
the  ASP’s  and  ground  liaison  officers  (GLO’s)  which  operated  with 
ground  and  air  units,  respectively.  No  sudden  miracle  was  achieved, 
but  progress  was  made  through  a variety  of  means.  Pilots  were  regu- 
larly sent  to  spend  time  with  ground  units  at  the  front.  It  was  styled 
a rest  period,  but  the  results  were  seen  in  ensuing  tactical  operations. 
The  A- 3 of  the  368th  Fighter-Bomber  Group  spent  the  better  part  of 
a week  with  3d  Armored  Division  in  an  effort  to  further  ground’s  un- 
derstanding of  air’s  capabilities. 

As  armored  divisions  developed  the  practice  of  using  a number  of 
combat  commands  in  the  course  of  their  advance,  the  need  for  an 
added  complement  of  ASP’s  became  real.  Although  air  force  tables 
of  organization  made  no  provision  for  such  officers  even  for  corps  and 
divisions,  they  were  provided  for  the  combat  commands  through  a 
neat  juggling  of  personnel  allotments,  even  as  by  similar  means  they 
had  been  made  available  to  the  larger  army  units.  Air  stressed  the  need 
to  keep  ASP’s  with  the  divisions  to  which  they  had  been  assigned, 
regardless  of  divisional  transfers  from  one  army  to  another— a change 
which  involved  a shift  from  the  responsibility  of  one  TAG  to  that  of 


245 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


the  other.  GLO’s  in  their  briefings  of  air  personnel  assisted  in  the  edu- 
cation of  the  air  units  to  which  they  were  attached,  and  in  their  inter- 
rogations of  pilots  they  gathered  information  useful  to  Army  G-2’s.  In 
periods  of  swift  movement  and  uncertain  communications,  they  were 
able  to  gain  knowledge  of  the  location  of  their  own  forward  columns 
from  such  sources,  a knowledge  so  valuable  that  it  became  standard 
procedure  for  returning  pilots  to  report  the  location  of  the  head  of 
the  column  which  they  had  just  left.  Since  speed  was  a prime  consid- 
eration, the  report  was  sent  to  Army  in  the  form  of  a hot  news  flash. 
Furthermore,  it  was  soon  found  that  ACC  not  merely  provided  a 
striking  force  for  armor’s  use  but  that  radio  contact  allowed  the  cover- 
ing flight  to  serve  as  the  eyes  of  the  advancing  column.  The  intimate 
day-to-day  association,  in  planning  and  in  combat,  bred  both  increased 
tolerance  and  increased  efficiency.35 

In  the  first  weeks  of  August  there  was  no  lack  of  action  to  produce 
such  intimacy.  Patton’s  Third  Army  had  been  given  Rennes  and 
Fougeres  as  its  initial  objectives,  with  a drive  west  into  Brittany  to 
follow.  On  3 August  it  was  directed  to  pursue  the  Breton  operation 
with  a minimum  of  forces  and  to  mass  its  power  for  a drive  toward 
Mayenne.  Relentless  pursuit  was  the  order  of  the  day,  for  the  enemy 
was  clearly  off-balance.  As  FUSA  (now  under  Lt.  Gen.  Courtney  H. 
Hodges)  and  the  British  swung  on  the  Caen  pivot  and  drove  against 
Vire,  Domfront,  and  Falaise,  TUSA  continued  its  main  movement 
into  the  Le  Mans  area  and  in  subsidiary  operations  extended  its  south- 
ern flank  to  the  Loire.  By  io  August,  the  Breton  fortresses  at  St.-Malo 
and  Brest  were  encircled;  to  the  south,  Rennes,  Angers,  and  Nantes 
were  occupied;  and  in  its  eastward  drive,  TUSA  crossed  the  Mayenne 
at  Mayenne  and  Laval  and  the  Sarthe  in  the  vicinity  of  Le  Mans  with 
other  of  its  elements  swinging  north  against  Argentan.36 

German  resistance  on  the  western  flank  was  greatly  reduced,  and 
the  enemy  recorded  that  his  own  forces  were  split  into  small  groups, 
wandering  aimlessly  in  a generally  easterly  or  southeasterly  direction. 
They  lacked  arms  and  rations  and  their  morale  was  badly  shaken, 
thanks  in  no  small  part  to  “enemy  command  of  the  air.”37  Neverthe- 
less, the  American  situation  was  a little  perilous  in  two  particulars. 
First,  its  drive  to  the  south  had  merely  opened  a narrow  corridor  some 
twenty  miles  wide  in  the  vicinity  of  Avranches.  Through  this  vulner- 
able spot  an  incredible  volume  of  traffic  must  pass  as  operations  de- 
veloped to  the  south  and  west.  Second,  as  TUSA  concentrated  its 

246 


I H F.  B A I I 1,  F O I F R A X C F. 


main  effort  on  the  drive  east,  its  lengthening  southern  flank  was  left 
exposed.  The  latter  problem  was  disposed  of  when,  on  6 August,  Pat- 
ton turned  over  the  task  of  protecting  TUSA’s  southern  flank  to  XIX 
TAC.  The  line  of  the  Loire  was  thereafter  lightly  held  by  Third 
Army  detachments,  with  planes  of  XIX  TAC  mounting  guard  over- 
head against  possible  enemy  threats.  Concern  for  the  protection  of 
the  Avranches  bottleneck  is  seen  in  Army’s  request  that  Wcvland’s 
command  give  protection  to  the  bridges  at  Avranches— a request  that 
caused  five  missions  to  be  flown  in  that  area  on  2 August.  With  the 
same  purpose  in  view,  flights  engaged  in  ACC  were  ordered  to  make 
periodic  sweeps  over  the  rear  of  their  columns  and  in  the  direction  of 
Avranches.  Through  XIX  TAC  provision  was  further  made  for  two 
P-6i’s  from  IX  Air  Defense  Command  to  be  on  constant  night  patrol 
south  of  Avranches  and  in  the  Pontorson  area.  To  meet  these  and 
other  requirements,  the  forces  at  the  disposal  of  XIX  TAC  were  in- 
creased and  by  7 August  nine  groups  were  under  its  control.  All  were 
veteran  units,  and  the  greater  part  had  already  operated  under  Wey- 
land  when  he  was  in  control  of  IX  Fighter  Command  in  England.38 

The  need  for  both  day  and  night  cover  of  the  corridor,  and  particu- 
larly of  the  Avranches  and  Pontaubault  bridges,  is  explained  by  a 
recent  development  of  GAF  opposition.  Up  to  this  point  the  enemy 
air  force  had  confined  its  offensive  operations  in  the  battle  area  almost 
exclusively  to  mine-laying.  Bur  German  fighters  struck  at  an  armored 
column  on  2 August,  and  the  GAF  on  the  night  of  2/}  August  began 
a series  of  small  raids  in  the  Avranches  and  Pontaubault  area.  Subse- 
quently road  convoys  were  attacked,  virtually  for  the  first  time;  and 
by  night,  when  there  was  some  use  of  glider  bombs,  the  enemy  man- 
aged to  score  near-misses  on  Patton’s  headquarters  and  to  destroy  an 
ammunition  dump.39  As  this  new  activity  suggested,  plans  were  afoot 
for  a counteroffensive,  with  the  German  Seventh  Army  scheduled  to 
attempt  a drive  west  through  Mortain  to  the  sea,  and  the  GAF  had 
been  reinforced  in  an  effort  to  provide  much-needed  air  support. 

German  statistics  are  extremely  confusing  but  emphasize  the  xveak- 
ness  of  the  GAF  at  this  stage  of  the  war.  In  July  and  August  Luft- 
flotte  3 appears  to  have  received  as  replacements  a total  of  460  Me- 
109’s  and  440  FW-iqo’s,  but  these  gains  were  obviously  offset  by 
losses— 524  being  listed  for  July  alone.40  Because  of  numerical  inferior- 
ity, the  Luftwaffe  avoided  the  use  of  large  formations  whenever  the 
weather  was  good  or  the  approach  of  Allied  planes  was  anticipated. 


247 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


There  is  reason  to  believe,  as  the  German  high  command  had  observed 
in  June,  that  units  transferred  from  the  eastern  front  lacked  the  expe- 
rience necessary  to  oppose  the  well-trained  pilots  of  the  western 
Allies.41  And  in  any  event,  the  planes  were  forced  to  operate  from 
bases  far  removed  from  the  battle  lines  and  subject  to  repeated  Allied 
attacks.  In  spite  of  these  difficulties,  however,  the  GAF  made  its  first 
considerable  effort  against  the  invading  forces  in  the  early  weeks  of 
August  with  an  average  of  about  400  sorties  per  day.42 

The  plan  for  the  Mortain  drive  had  been  meticulously  drawn  up  in 
Berlin,  where  Hitler  still  demanded  the  impossible  of  his  generals  in 
the  West.  Five  panzer  divisions  were  to  be  massed  under  the  control 
of  the  Fifth  Panzer  Army,  whose  commander,  Col.  Gen.  Joseph 
(“Sepp”)  Dietrich  (like  Gen.  Paul  Hausser,  now  commanding  Sev- 
enth Army),  was  an  SS  man.  In  spite  of  this  affiliation  with  Nazi  zeal, 
the  veteran  tanker  saw  a double  danger  if  the  plan  were  carried  into 
execution.  The  armored  striking  force  could  only  be  assembled  by  dis- 
engaging the  panzers,  and  although  they  were  to  be  replaced  by  in- 
fantry, the  resultant  diminution  of  strength  on  the  northern  flank 
would  imperil  Falaise.  Furthermore,  he  considered  it  “impossible  to 
concentrate  so  many  tanks  without  inviting  disaster  from  the  air.”  To 
all  such  objections  Field  Marshal  von  Kluge  (C-in-C  West)  replied: 
“It  is  a Fuehrerbefehl  (Hitler  order).”  An  order  from  the  German 
Seventh  Army,  in  an  apparent  show  of  resolution,  declared  that  on  “the 
successful  execution  of  this  operation  . . . depends  the  decision  of  the 
war  in  the  West,  and  with  it,  perhaps,  the  decision  of  the  war  itself,” 
but  upon  receiving  Hitler’s  order  on  1 August,  von  Kluge  had  warned 
his  superiors  that  “to  the  best  of  my  knowledge  and  conscience,  the 
execution  of  this  order  means  the  collapse  of  the  whole  Normandy 
front.”  The  Fuehrer’s  will  prevailed,  however,  and  what  the  Germans 
called  Operation  LiTGE  was  launched  on  7 August.  Prudently,  in 
view  of  the  air  situation,  H-hour  was  placed  shortly  after  midnight.43 

Although  the  struggle  continued  for  over  a week,  the  fate  of  the 
German  offensive  was  determined  in  the  first  twenty-four  hours  of 
fighting.  FUSA’s  30th  Infantry  Division  bore  the  weight  of  the  initial 
attack.  Although  the  division  had  only  recently  arrived  in  the  area,  it 
held  well  and  two  other  divisions  were  rushed  to  its  assistance.  Mor- 
tain itself  was  overrun  and  a battalion  of  the  117th  Infantry  was  left 
isolated  in  that  vicinity,  but  the  enemy  spearheads  were  brought  to 
an  abrupt  halt  when  still  sixteen  miles  from  their  Avranches  objective. 

248 


I n r I?  \ I 1 I F O I !•  K A \ C F. 


They  srmck  a strong  rather  rli.m  a weak  point  in  the  opposing  line, 
for  the  Americans  had  sensed  that  the  attack  was  coining  and  were 
prepared  for  it.  In  addition,  the  weather  played  the  ( iermans  false. 
The  days  preceding  7 August  had  seen  air  action  restricted,  and  on 
occasion  all  but  eliminated,  by  low -hanging  cloud.  The  German  as- 
sault, begun  at  night,  in  its  initial  stages  had  moved  through  mists  but, 
as  von  Kluge  later  lamented,  “the  barometer  remained  high”  from  7 to 
18  August  and  the  mists  lifted  on  the  first  day  of  action.  IX  TAG  flew 
429  sorties  on  7 Avigust,  chiefly  in  the  threatened  area.  Its  old  com- 
panion, Second  TAF,  responded  to  a request  for  assistance  by  direct- 
ing nearly  300  sorties  of  its  rocket-firing  Typhoons  into  the  Mortain 
region,  while  XIX  TAC,  busy  as  it  was  in  Brittany  to  the  west  and  in 
the  Argentan-Le  Mans  area  to  the  east,  dispatched  a group  to 
strengthen  air  support  and  covered  the  fighting  area  wirh  P-5  i’s.  The 
entire  effort  was  well  coordinated  by  the  tactical  headquarters  in  ac- 
tion which  afforded  further  evidence  of  the  Allies'  ability  to  mass 
their  tactical  air  strength.44 

Allied  claims  of  tanks  destroyed  were  undoubtedly  exaggerated, 
but  the  enemy  recorded  air’s  substantial  success.  The  1st  SS  Panzer  Di- 
vision, bearing  the  proud  title  of  IJehstandartc  Adolf  Hitler  (Adolf 
Hitler’s  Own)  reported  fighter-bomber  attacks  of  such  caliber  as  it 
had  never  before  experienced.  Von  Luttwitz,  commander  of  2d  Pan- 
zer Division,  the  only  German  armored  unit  to  enter  the  battle  with 
normal  strength,  was  more  explicit:  “YVe  made  a swift  advance  of 
about  ten  miles  and  suffered  only  three  tank  losses.  1 1 6 Panzer  Divi- 
sion made  only  limited  progress.  . . . Suddenly'  the  Allied  fighter- 
bombers  swept  down  out  of  the  sky.  They  came  in  hundreds,  firing 
their  rockets  at  the  concentrated  tanks  and  vehicles.  \\  e could  do 
nothing  against  them,  and  we  could  make  no  further  progress.”43 
Equally  grim  were  the  entries  in  Seventh  Army's  war  diary:  “The 
attack  has  been  brought  to  a complete  standstill  by  unusually  strong 
fighter-bomber  activity,”  and  later,  “The  actual  attack  has  not  made 
any  progress  since  1300  hours  because  of  the  large  number  of  fighter- 
bombers  and  the  absence  of  our  own  Air  Force. ”4fi  The  transportation 
officer  of  that  same  army  was  to  add  a pertinent  postscript  to  these 
notations  when  he  declared  that  Allied  interdiction  had  prevented  the 
rapid  build-up  of  the  German  striking  force  to  the  strength  required 
to  accomplish  a breakthrough.47 

As  night  closed  in  after  the  first  day  of  fighting,  Hausser  ordered 

249 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


that  “the  attack  be  continued  as  soon  as  air  situation  permits.”48  But 
steady  resistance  on  the  ground,  which  speedily  developed  into  a 
counterattack,  and  air’s  continued  onslaughts  in  support  of  both  de- 
fense and  offense  rendered  this  impossible.  The  isolated  American 
battalion  near  Mortain,  assisted  by  medical  supplies  which  artillery 
packed  into  the  emptied  bases  of  smoke  shells  and  fired  into  its  lines 
and  by  additional  supplies  dropped  by  C-47’s  and  P-47’s,  held  out  un- 
til relieved  on  the  nth  as  the  American  lines  surged  forward.49  The 
enemy  had  thrust  his  concentrated  armor  into  a trap,  and  by  n 
August  he  was  aware  that  American  armored  and  air  concentrations 
made  his  position  hopeless.  Even  Hitler  was  forced  to  bow  to  the  logic 
of  events  and  permit  a limited  withdrawal.  Two  days  later  von  Kluge, 
increasingly  alarmed  at  threats  to  his  rear  developing  from  north  and 
south  in  the  direction  of  Falaise  and  Argentan,  recommended  a 
genuine  withdrawal  to  the  Flers  area  on  the  ground  that  if  “the  widely 
spread  front  line  remains  as  it  is  . . . , it  will  be  broken  through  and  sur- 
rounded by  the  enemy,  with  his  superiority  in  men  and  materials,  and 
his  mastery  of  the  air,  and  our  units  could  not  fight  their  way  out.”50 

The  application  of  pressure  at  the  Caen  hinge  had  contributed  to 
the  distress  of  von  Kluge’s  northern  lines,  since  Montgomery  had  or- 
dered an  attack  in  the  direction  of  Falaise  as  Patton  swerved  north  to- 
ward Argentan.  To  speed  his  own  effort,  the  British  general  requested 
direct  support  from  the  heavy  bombers,  and  on  the  night  of  7 August 
the  RAF  dispatched  over  1,000  planes  to  bombard  areas  flanking  the 
projected  assault.  Artillery  then  took  up  the  fire,  and  motorized  infan- 
try in  their  armored  “Kangaroos”  bounded  through  the  enemy  lines. 
This  first  phase  of  the  action  was  fully  successful,  although  weather 
and  smoke  blanketing  target  markers  allowed  only  637  of  RAF’s 
bombers  to  attack. 

The  second  phase  opened  on  the  following  day  with  the  Eighth  Air 
Force  playing  a supporting  part.  Its  bombardment  was  to  be  directed 
against  four  areas  by  formations  flying  parallel  to  the  front  lines  and 
delivering  their  attacks  progressively  from  north  to  south  in  the  gen- 
eral manner  of  a creeping  barrage.  The  adoption  of  this  procedure  in- 
volved a long  flight  over  enemy  territory  and  greatly  magnified  the 
ever  present  problems  of  navigating  in  heavy  traffic.  Hence  special 
precautions  were  taken  against  bombing  errors.  Artillery  was  to 
smoke  the  edges  of  target  areas  which  were  also  to  be  marked  by 
dropped  flares.  Scouting  aircraft  were  to  give  information  on  weather 

250 


THE  BATTLE  OK  FRANCE 


over  the  targets  and  to  check  on  the  target  markers,  while  troops  were 
withdrawn  nearly  a mile  from  the  northern  edge  of  the  area  to  be 
bombed.  The  American  heavies  attacked  at  about  1300  hours  on  the 
8th,  flying  straight  and  level  through  intense  and  accurate  flak.  Good 
concentrations  were  effected  on  three  areas;  the  fourth  was  not 
bombed  because  it  proved  impossible  to  make  positive  identification  of 
the  target.  Of  the  678  bombers  dispatched,  491  attacked.  In  spite  of 
precautions  taken,  there  were  errors  which  resulted  in  the  bombing  of 
points  outside  the  target  areas  but  within  enemy  lines.  Short  bombing 
within  friendly  lines  resulted  from  gross  errors  on  the  part  of  two 
twelve-plane  groups.  In  one  case,  faulty  identification  of  target  by  the 
lead  bombardier  led  him  to  drop  near  Caen,  although  fortunately  some 
other  bombardiers  of  the  formation  cautiously  refrained  from  drop- 
ping with  him.  In  the  second  instance,  a badly  hit  lead  bomber  salvoed 
short  and  the  rest  of  the  formation  followed  in  regular  routine.  Cana- 
dian troops  were  thereby  in  some  measure  disorganized,  and  suffered 
casualties  amounting  to  25  killed  and  1 3 1 wounded.  Eighth  Air  Force 
losses  were  counted  at  9 heavies  destroyed  bv  flak  and  over  200  dam- 
aged in  varying  degrees.  The  safety  precaution  of  adding  five  minutes 
to  the  interval  between  the  end  of  bombing  and  the  jump-off  by 
ground  forces,  coupled  with  the  depth  of  the  Canadians’  preliminary 
withdrawal,  may  well  have  given  the  enemy  opportunity  to  recover 
from  his  initial  shock  before  the  ground  attack  developed.  At  all 
events  progress  was  slow.  By  1 1 August,  Operation  TOTALIZE  had 
gained  some  eight  miles,  but  Falaise  was  still  as  many  miles  away.51 

In  the  course  of  their  attack  on  8 August  the  Eighth’s  bombers  had 
the  novel  experience  of  meeting  a small  formation  of  GAF  fighters 
close  to  the  coast.52  Their  presence  there,  though  ineffective,  was  evi- 
dence of  the  Luftwaffe’s  current  determination  to  aid  the  distressed 
German  armies  and  in  some  measure  to  challenge  Allied  air  suprem- 
acy. The  challenge  was  sufficiently  serious  to  require  extra  effort  on 
the  part  of  the  TAC’s,  which  were  led  to  provide  planes  as  escort 
cover  to  those  engaged  in  ACC.  But  it  was  a challenge  eagerly  ac- 
cepted by  British  and  Americans  alike.  The  latter  certainly  had  good 
hunting  as  they  warred  on  German  “bandits”  in  the  days  between  the 
opening  of  the  German  drive  against  Avranches  on  7 August  and  the 
closing  of  the  Falaise- Argentan  pocket  on  the  19th. 

It  was  the  XIX  TAC  which  met  the  enemy  in  the  air  most  fre- 
quently, probably  because  its  assigned  mission  caused  its  planes  to 


- 5 1 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

range  close  to  the  Paris  area,  where  enemy  airfields  were  numerous. 
On  every  day  but  one  of  the  two-week  period  here  involved  its  units 
engaged  in  air  combat;  a fact  which  is  the  more  remarkable  since  on 
five  of  these  days  weather  limited  the  command’s  operations.  On  occa- 
sion weather  played  favorites,  leaving  American  bases  socked  in  and 
pilots  restive  while  German  fields  remained  open.  Under  such  circum- 
stances small  enemy  formations  attacked  columns  of  the  4th  Armored 
Division  and  79th  Infantry  Division  with  impunity  from  air  counter- 
measures. But  when  weather  allowed,  XIX  TAC’s  P-47’s  and  P-5i’s 
were  active  and  generally  successful,  even  when  the  odds  were  against 
them.  As  the  Germans  lunged  against  Mortain  on  7 August,  four 
American  formations  encountered  the  GAF  in  the  Chartres-Le  Mans- 
Mayenne  area,  claimed  fourteen  and  lost  two.  On  the  same  day,  at- 
tacks on  two  busy  enemy  fields  near  Chartres  brought  claims  of  nine- 
teen destroyed  on  the  ground  at  the  cost  of  three  P~5i’s.  The  9th  was 
marked  in  the  annals  of  XIX  TAC  by  a record  high  of  780  sorties,  and 
by  three  enemy  encounters.  “Exclaim”  (the  79th  Infantry  Division) 
vectored  covering  planes  to  attack  two  strafing  Me- 190’s,  caused 
their  own  AA  to  withhold  its  fire  as  the  P~47’s  attacked  at  700  feet, 
and  voiced  its  thanks  when  one  of  the  Germans  was  destroyed.  One 
squadron  of  the  162& Fighter-Bomber  Group,  operating  near  Le  Mans, 
was  bounced  by  twenty-five  of  the  enemy  and  before  the  German 
formation  broke  away,  it  had  lost  two  aircraft. 

A reckless  squadron  of  the  406th  Fighter-Bomber  Group  scattered 
its  adversaries  on  1 1 August  by  resort  to  the  unusual  device  of  rocket 
fire.  On  the  13th,  one  eight-plane  unit  from  the  363d  Fighter-Bomber 
Group  sighted  twenty-five  enemy  dive  bombers  and  drove  them  off 
after  destroying  eight,  while  another  formation  blasted  four  from  the 
skies  at  the  cost  of  one.  The  following  day  saw  a quartet  of  P-47’s 
from  the  405th  Group  bounced  by  sixteen  of  the  enemy  who  cut  in 
under  the  covering  formation.  Here  the  Americans  destroyed  three 
but  lost  four.  15  August  was  the  373d  Group’s  day.  As  its  formations 
were  attacking  the  base  at  Bretigny,  one  of  them  was  jumped  by  an 
equal  number  of  the  enemy,  whose  aggressive  spirit  fortunately  was 
not  accompanied  by  a high  degree  of  skill.  The  enemy  lost  five  planes. 
Other  XIX  TAC  units  encountered  opposition  near  Chartres  and  Cer- 
nay  la  Ville  and  reported  eight  planes  destroyed  with  half  as  many 
lost.  In  spite  of  the  bad  weather  which  prevailed  on  16  August,  the 
veteran  354th  Group  further  distinguished  itself.  An  eight-plane 
squadron  of  its  P-5i’s  met  seventy  bombed-up  FW- 190’s  and  imme- 

252 


I Hi  hi  li  A I I L K O K l It  A N C E 


diately  attacked.  At  a cost  of  two  aircraft,  the  Americans  brought  down 
an  equal  number  of  the  enemy  and  dispersed  the  formation.  In  a second 
encounter,  a squadron  of  like  size  took  on  twenty  of  the  enemy  over 
Maintenon.  The  P-5PS  climbed  above  their  adversaries  and  struck, 
whereupon  some  sixty  other  German  planes  swooped  out  of  the 
clouds  to  join  in  the  melee.  For  fifteen  long  minutes  there  was  a wild 
fight  from  1 1,000  feet  to  the  deck,  and  at  its  close  the  score  was  1 1-2 
in  favor  of  the  AAF.  The  Germans  thus  occasionally  appeared  aggres- 
sive, but  they  lacked  training  and,  probably  because  of  their  slender 
resources,  they  assumed  the  offensive  chiefly  when  they  had  superior 
numbers  or  expected  the  advantage  of  surprise. 

On  the  19th  the  enemy  learned  that  it  was  dangerous  to  attack  an 
American  column  when  supporting  aircraft  were  within  call,  for  eight 
planes  of  the  371st  Fighter  Bomber  Group  were  vectored  to  a point 
in  the  Dreux  area  and  destroyed  two  of  eighteen  enemy  dive  bombers. 
That  same  day  a squadron  of  the  406th  Group,  strafing  an  airfield 
near  Pontoise,  was  jumped  by  enemy  fighters.  A second  American 
squadron  came  to  its  aid,  but  in  a series  of  dog  fights  with  a strongly 
reinforced  enemy  five  P-47  S were  lost,  though  not  before  as  many 
enemy  planes  had  been  shot  down.  Another  squadron  of  the  same 
group  performed  notably  when  bounced  by  a superior  enemy  force 
near  Paris.  The  American  planes  were  out  of  ammunition  and  immedi- 
ately hit  the  deck,  where  their  skilful  maneuvering  caused  two  Ger- 
man ships  to  crash.  At  the  close  of  a light  on  20  August  between  eight 
planes  of  the  362d  Fighter-Bomber  Group  and  four  times  that  number 
of  enemy,  the  score  stood  6-2,  one  American  pilot  being  credited  with 
four  kills.  Even  Tac/R  planes,  habitually  operating  in  pairs,  met  and 
vanquished  the  enemy,  and  Allied  fighters  repeatedly  proved  them- 
selves more  than  capable  of  coping  with  a reviving  challenge  from  the 
GAF.  If  the  air  umbrella  over  Allied  forces  leaked  a bit  in  spots,  it 
was  so  effective  that  ground  troops  tended  to  expect  complete  pro- 
tection and  to  protest  vigorously  if  they  were  robbed  of  even  a part 
of  their  rest  at  night  by  bombing,  or  if  their  movements  by  day  were 
even  occasionally  subjected  to  air  attack.  Air  had  earned  the  right  to 
have  such  protests  made. 

The  Falaise- Argent  an  Pocket  and  Gap 

With  the  failure  of  the  German  thrust  toward  the  coast  and  with 
the  Falaise- Argentan  pocket  taking  shape,  air’s  mission  of  close  sup- 
port again  became  pre-eminent.  It  also  became  increasingly  difficult 

253 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


to  accomplish.  The  fronts  were  for  the  most  part  fluid,  and  in  the  pre- 
vailing confusion  bomb  lines  were  constantly  shifting.  Since  all  were 
naturally  concerned  to  avoid  the  bombing  of  friendly  troops,  the  area 
in  which  close  support  missions  could  be  carried  out  was  steadily  re- 
stricted. 

On  1 7 August  the  bomb  line  was  entirely  removed  from  the  pocket 
west  of  the  narrowing  Falaise-Argentan  gap,  and  theoretically  air 
activity  over  the  beleaguered  enemy  in  that  area  ceased.53  Two  days 
previous  to  this,  when  German  concentrations  offered  most  appealing 
targets,  Spaatz,  Tedder,  and  Harris  had  signified  their  desire  to  “hit 
the  Germans  inside  the  bag”  with  heavy  bombardment.  They  stressed 
the  fact  that  such  an  effort  would  require  careful  planning  on  the  spot 
—not  in  England— and  at  an  Army  level  if  the  obvious  difficulties  were 
to  be  surmounted.  The  21  Army  Group  approved  in  principle  but 
noted  the  difficulty  of  properly  warning  the  advancing  Allied  troops. 
Bradley’s  opinion  was  sought,  and  he  in  turn  took  counsel  with  Ninth 
Air  Force.  Its  opinion,  rendered  as  Harris  held  his  bombers  ready,  was 
that  while  such  bombing  was  a possibility,  it  was  a practical  certainty 
that  American  and  British  casualties  in  large  numbers  would  result. 
The  Ninth,  therefore,  advised  against  the  project,  and  the  fat  targets 
in  both  pocket  and  gap  remained  the  almost  exclusive  property  of  the 
fighter-bombers.  Doolittle  was  keen  to  use  the  fighter-bombers  of 
VIII  Fighter  Command  to  maximum  advantage  if  general  strafing 
were  ordered,  but  he  was  averse  to  employing  them  within  the  tactical 
area  because  they  were  not  accustomed  to  working  close  to  troops. 
Accordingly,  the  Eighth’s  fighters  continued  their  useful  activities 
chiefly  in  the  area  east  of  the  Seine  and  south  of  Paris.  In  fact,  as 
pocket  and  gap  were  progressively  constricted,  close-in  enemy  targets 
came  to  lie  largely  in  Second  TAF’s  area  of  responsibility.54  That  vigi- 
lant RAF  command  had  been  most  helpful  at  Mortain  on  the  7th,  and 
two  days  later  IX  TAC  had  been  able  to  return  the  courtesy  in  some 
measure  by  informing  RAF  83  Group  of  rich  road  targets  within  the 
Flers-Argentan-La  Ferte  Mace  triangle,  which  Typhoons  promptly 
attacked.  Coningham  later  voiced  his  thanks  to  Vandenberg  for  the 
“big  field  days”  afforded  to  Second  TAF  as  a result  of  this  Allied 
team  work.55 

There  was,  nevertheless,  solid  work  of  direct  support  for  Ameri- 
can tactical  units  to  undertake,  though  all  the  skills  which  they  had 
amassed  were  required  for  its  accomplishment.  The  ground  situation 

2 54 


I H F.  B A I I I,  I OF  FRAN  C K 


was  confused  by  the  existence  of  enemy  pockets  of  resistance  in  areas 
which  had  been  overrun  and  by  deep,  but  narrow,  penetrations  into 
enemy  territory  on  the  part  of  Allied  units.  “Know  your  target  before 
you  hit  it”  became  the  standard  maxim,  and  orders  prescribed  that 
there  should  be  no  strikes  made  within  the  rather  uncertain  bomb  lines 
unless  specifically  ordered.  Even  so  there  were  sufficient  instances  of 
Allied  attacks  on  friendly  troops  to  render  the  latter  trigger  happy 
and  to  add  a further  peril  to  those  which  airmen  must  normally  en- 
counter. On  the  15th,  American  planes  strafed  the  newly  established 
headquarters  of  TUSA  and  XIX  TAG  near  Laval,  where  a pilot  of 
VIII  Fighter  Command  was  shot  down,  and  on  the  same  day  friendly 
troops  southwest  of  Carrouges  were  subjected  to  attack.  Other  equal- 
ly tragic  events  were  burned  into  the  memories  of  individuals  who 
fought  on  the  ground  and  in  the  air  in  this  period  of  swirling  battle 
but,  like  the  shorts  of  supporting  artillery,  they  must  be  set  dowm  as 
the  inevitable  accompaniment  of  close  support.5*1 

Missions  flown  by  American  airmen  w ere  classified  as  armed  recce 
or  as  ACC  in  the  records  kept  by  their  commands.  But  the  effective- 
ness of  ground  controls  in  these  days  stripped  any  such  formal  dis- 
tinctions of  their  meaning.  ACC’s  were  instructed  to  conduct  armed 
recce  in  advance  of  the  columns  which  they  escorted  if  no  targets 
were  available;  and  ground  was  likely  to  vector  planes  assigned  the 
general  mission  of  armed  recce  to  very  specific  targets.  In  either  case 
tactical  results  were  achieved.  As  Patton’s  columns  converged  on  Ar- 
gentan,  XIX  TAC’s  groups  were  particularly  active.  On  10  August 
ground  recorded  their  destruction  of  tanks  and  their  silencing  of  mor- 
tar and  artillery  positions.  In  the  days  which  followed  they  were 
credited  with  allowing  American  columns  to  continue  the  advance 
after  offending  armor  had  been  destroyed  or  guns  eliminated,  and  on 
one  occasion  they  even  played  the  leading  role  in  the  surrender  of 
enemy  ground  troops.  This  last  occurred  on  14  August,  as  a squadron 
of  the  405th  Fighter-Bomber  Group  assigned  to  cover  the  7th  Ar- 
mored Division,  was  busy  strafing  northeast  of  Carrouges.  W hen  Ger- 
mans in  the  road  waved  white  flags,  the  planes  buzzed  the  road  and 
shepherded  the  Germans  into  a column  which  then  marched  toward 
the  American  lines  to  surrender.57 

IX  TAC,  committed  as  always  to  support  of  FL  SA,  flew'  over  6,600 
sorties  in  the  period  7-20  August,  chiefly  in  direct  support,  with  a 
high  of  673  and  a low  of  161  for  a single  day’s  operations.  Its  missions 

2 55 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


were  almost  exclusively  those  which  were  planned  in  cooperation 
with  its  ground  companion  to  meet  an  ever  changing  situation.  Run- 
ning “flying  interference”  for  its  old  friend,  the  2d  Armored  Division, 
the  366th  Group  bombed  woods  southeast  of  Brecy  on  7 August,  and 
as  the  smoke  from  the  ensuing  explosions  towered  to  a height  of  2,000 
feet  “Murphy”  asked  that  the  planes  eliminate  a group  of  concealed 
enemy  88’s  and  followed  through  with  congratulations  on  a fine  job 
done.  Near  Sourdeval,  on  the  10th,  the  50th  Fighter-Bomber  Group 
dealt  with  three  antitank  and  six  light  guns  to  ground’s  satisfaction, 
and  two  days  later  in  the  same  area,  IX  TAC’s  formations  blasted  six 
smoke-marked  positions  held  by  German  infantry.  At  “Poodle’s”  (3d 
Armored  Division)  request,  the  town  of  Ranes  was  twice  bombed  by 
the  404th  Fighter-Bomber  Group  on  the  15th.  Two  days  previously, 
battered  elements  of  1st  SS  Panzer  Division  had  reached  this  area  after 
being  “held  up  by  waves  of  Jabos  attacking.”68  By  way  of  variety  IX 
TAC  struck  at  enemy  dumps  in  or  near  the  battle  area  every  day  from 
the  8th  through  the  13th.  Its  planes  also  delivered  plasma  to  advanced 
units  of  the  3d  Armored  Division  two  and  one-half  hours  after  the 
unusual  request  was  received,  and  aircraft  of  the  48th  Group,  escort- 
ing troop  carriers  bearing  supplies  to  the  “lost  battalion”  near  Mortain, 
embraced  an  opportunity  to  hit  three  gun  positions. 

As  the  trap  gradually  closed,  new  assignments  were  given  to  the 
American  armies.  On  1 3 August  TUSA’s  movement  through  Argen- 
tan  toward  Falaise  was  halted,  and  soon  after  its  XV  Corps  was  di- 
rected to  resume  its  drive  eastward.  FUSA  took  over  responsibility 
for  further  action  to  close  the  southern  jaw  of  the  trap,  receiving  one 
armored  and  two  infantry  divisions  which  had  been  under  the  other 
army’s  control.  As  request  missions  decreased  in  number  with  the  di- 
minishing size  of  the  attack  area,  IX  TAC  and  Second  TAF  devoted 
themselves  to  clobbering  German  concentrations.  On  13  August, 
when  fourteen  group-strength  armed  recces  were  flown  in  the  battle 
area,  the  366th  Group  spotted  a line  of  German  tank  trucks  on  a road 
near  Carrouges.  Camouflage  had  been  attempted,  but  keen-eyed  pilots 
noted  trucks  “under  trees  in  the  middle  of  the  road,”  and  their  strike 
resulted  in  explosions  and  fires  along  a line  one  and  one-half  miles 
long.  The  Germans’  enforced  concentrations  on  the  ground  were 
matched  by  congested  traffic  patterns  in  the  skies  overhead,  but  there 
the  traffic  was  Allied.  American  pilots  took  over  attacks  as  the  British 
left  off,  and  on  occasion  formations  were  forced  to  queue  up  and  wait 

256 


I HI  H A 1 I I I U I I K A \ C K 


their  turn  to  strike.  Enemy  columns  were  blocked,  head  and  tail,  and 
the  immobilized  vehicles  were  worked  over  at  leisure  and  systemati- 
cally. Pilots  submitted  claims  of  vehicles  destroyed  which  would  have 
been  written  off  as  preposterous  had  they  not  been  attacking  such 
lucrative  targets,  but  as  one  returning  pilot  put  it  on  17  August,  “The 
whole  goddam  German  army  is  mo\  mg  through  the  ( Hap.” 

The  pocket  became  a shambles,  and  the  enemy  knew  freedom  from 
attack  only  when  chance  determined  that  his  position  lay  within  the 
Allied  bomb  line.  To  use  main  roads  was  fatal,  bur  secondary  roads 
were  speedily  clogged  with  the  debris  of  blasted  vehicles.  Enemy 
problems  of  supply,  always  acute,  became  exaggerated,  and  panzers 
committed  hara-kiri  for  lack  of  fuel  or  ammunition.  Many  German 
prisoners  taken  in  this  period  expressed  a greater  dread  of  artillery’s 
massed  fires  than  of  fighter-bomber  attacks— shells  seemed  terribly 
personal  and  the  fires  lasted  longer  than  those  resulting  from  dive 
bombing  or  strafing."9  But  General  Bayerlein,  with  the  remains  of  his 
division  now  organized  as  Kampfgruppe  Panzer  Lehr,  developed  an 
opposite  opinion  as  he  struggled  to  escape  eastw  ard.  Allied  “Jabos” 
struck  his  congested  columns  on  the  roads  near  Ilabloville  with  the 
usual  devastating  effect.  They  cut  his  wire  communications  and,  con- 
tinuing their  attack  without  respite,  made  it  impossible  for  his  radio 
to  be  manned.  These  attacks  became  intensely  personal  for  the  gen- 
eral, when  from  a slit  trench  in  which  he  had  sought  safety  he  looked 
out  to  see,  he  felt  certain,  one  low-swooping  pilot  staring  straight 
at  him  through  the  plexiglas.'10  Von  Liittwitz,  w’ith  only  fifteen  tanks 
of  his  2d  Panzer  Division  still  operable,  struggled  to  break  out  of 
Bailleul  as  the  gap  closed,  but  the  night  movement  he  had  ordered 
proved  impossible  because  of  the  debris  which  cluttered  all  roads.  Ele 
was  able  to  extricate  only  a remnant  of  his  remnant  by  filtering  small 
detachments  through  the  Allied  lines.  Organized  direction  of  a more 
general  movement  was  out  of  the  question  amidst  the  chaos  produced 
by  air  and  artillery  bombardment."1 

Rumor  had  it  that  time  bombs,  dropped  by  Allied  airmen,  denied 
Patton  the  chance  of  smashing  from  Argentan  straight  through  to 
Falaise.  From  10  through  13  August  such  bombs,  fuzed  to  a maximum 
of  a twelve-hour  delay,  were  planted  over  a w ide  area  by  IX  TAC 
and  IX  Bomber  Command  with  the  purpose  of  rendering  enemy 
movement  hazardous  “on  the  routes  of  retreat  he  was  likely  to  follow 
in  his  effort  to  escape  encirclement.’’  Prior  to  the  last  day’s  missions 

-57 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


the  Canadians,  who  were  advancing  into  the  general  area  thus  bombed, 
were  warned  of  possible  danger  from  this  source,  and  because  of  fears 
lest  the  Allied  advance  be  hindered,  the  maximum  fuzing  permitted 
on  the  13th  was  for  a six-hour  delay.  The  known  effect  of  the  bomb- 
ings, however,  stands  in  no  demonstrable  relationship  to  the  rumored 
one.  If  the  times  of  air  attacks,  together  with  the  location  of  their  tar- 
gets and  their  bombfalls,  are  matched  against  TUSA’s  penetrations, 
it  is  clear  that  the  halt  order  of  1 3 August  could  not  reasonably  have 
been  occasioned  by  fear  that  delayed-action  bombs  would  take  Amer- 
ican lives.  Furthermore,  available  evidence  indicates  that  the  order  was 
due  rather  to  fears  of  confusion,  or  even  more  calamitous  results,  if 
existing  inter-army  boundaries  were  changed,  and  to  the  desire  of  the 
higher  command  to  get  the  Third  Army  back  on  its  west-east  axis 
in  order  to  win  crossings  over  the  Seine.62 

Interdiction  Revised 

In  the  August  days  marked  by  the  fighting  around  Mortain  and  in 
the  Falaise-Argentan  area,  the  enemy  continued  to  feel  the  effects  of  a 
sustained  interdiction  program.  Late  in  July  Hitler  was  at  last  ready 
to  allow  mass  movement  of  infantry  from  his  Fifteenth  Army  in  the 
Pas-de-Calais.  But  the  decision  thus  laggardly  made  came  too  late  to 
influence  the  tides  of  battle,  since,  in  Montgomery’s  graphic  phrase, 
the  newly  arrived  divisions  “found  themselves  reinforcing  failure.”63 
They  were  the  less  effective  because  their  movements  were  as  hap- 
hazard as  those  of  units  earlier  moved  into  Normandy.  The  331st  In- 
fantry Division  started  by  train,  but  was  soon  forced  to  the  now  usual 
Landmarsch  after  a roundabout  rail  journey  which  carried  it  close 
to  the  Belgian  border.  The  84th  Infantry  Division  departed  from 
the  Le  Havre  area  on  bicycles,  and  four  days  of  frantic  pedaling 
brought  the  troops  exhausted  to  the  Mortain  battle.  Gen.  Eugen-Felix 
Schwalbe,  commanding  the  344th  Infantry  Division,  received  orders 
to  move  west  on  3 August.  His  service  troops  marched  to  Rouen  in 
three  days,  but  his  infantry,  which  should  have  covered  the  seventy- 
five  miles  to  the  assembly  area  in  twenty-four  hours  by  rail,  consumed 
nine  days  in  a delayed  movement  over  circuitous  routes  and  arrived 
after  the  Falaise  battle  had  been  lost.64 

In  spite  of  added  evidence  of  its  success,  however,  the  interdiction 
program  was  subjected  to  radical  revision  in  this  period.  The  need  for 
such  action  was  imposed  by  the  swift  advance  of  the  American  armies, 

258 


rev, 

fJMTM  7 7 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

in  particular  by  that  of  Patton’s  Third  Army.  As  VIII  Corps  began  to 
swing  its  combat  commands  into  Brittany,  it  was  clear  that  the  de- 
struction of  bridges  there  would  impede  their  advance;  hence  attacks 
on  them,  and  on  enemy  fuel  dumps  as  well,  were  banned  on  2 August. 
The  1 2th  Army  Group’s  requests  of  2 and  8 August  ended  attacks  on 
all  rail  targets  west  of  a line  from  Rouen  up  the  Seine  to  Mantes, 
thence  through  Dreux,  Maintenon,  Chartres,  and  Cloyes  to  the  Loire 
at  Beaugency  and  west  along  the  Loire  to  Nantes.  Initially  only  the 
Loire  bridges  on  this  line  were  exempted  from  bombing,  but  on  the 
17th  orders  from  AEAF  stipulated  that  no  bridges  of  any  kind  were 
thereafter  to  be  attacked  without  its  express  authorization. 

Furthermore,  in  the  period  marked  by  these  mounting  prohibitions, 
the  basic  purpose  of  interdiction  underwent  a gradual  change.  Its 
original  intent  had  been  to  choke  off  enemy  movements  into  the  battle 
area.  By  degrees  the  purpose  of  blocking  movements  out  of  that  very 
region  came  to  receive  major  accent.  The  new  accent  is  to  be  dis- 
cerned in  the  comprehensive  revision  of  the  interdiction  program  an- 
nounced by  AEAF  on  9 August.  Under  the  terms  of  this  instruction, 
Seine  rail  and  highway  bridges  north  of  Paris  still  constituted  a first 
priority,  but  a second  line  of  interdiction,  marked  by  twenty-one  rail 
bridges,  was  established  with  second-priority  rating.  This  line  ex- 
tended from  Etaples  through  Peronne,  Fismes,  Nogent-sur-Seine,  and 
Clamecy  to  the  Loire  at  Sully  and  constituted  an  arc  lying  approxi- 
mately seventy-five  miles  to  the  north,  east,  and  south  of  Paris,  the 
French  capital  and  the  hub  of  the  French  rail  system.  Further  elabo- 
ration of  the  new  program  called  for  air  attacks  on  nine  rail  bridges 
over  the  Oise  River  and  on  nineteen  rail  centers  east  of  Paris,  to  which 
lower  priorities  were  assigned.65 

Bridges  on  the  second  line  of  interdiction  had  been  occasionally 
attacked  in  June,  and  since  1 July  they  had  been  in  the  category  of 
recommended  targets.  However,  the  major  fraction  of  the  total 
weight  of  strikes  against  them  was  delivered  in  August,  and  not  until 
then  were  the  attacks  developed  systematically.  As  VIII  Fighter  Com- 
mand conducted  particularly  devastating  attacks  on  rails  and  rolling 
stock  east  of  the  Seine,  the  heavies  of  the  Eighth  struck  mightily  at  a 
wide  variety  of  freight  yards  extending  east  through  Alsace  and  Bel- 
gium into  Germany.  The  heavies  also  engaged  in  attacks  on  desig- 
nated bridges  along  the  second  line,  where  they  had  achieved  marked 
success  two  months  earlier,  but  because  the  bridge  targets  were  pin- 

260 


T H r U \ T I ( l « F F R ANC  E 


points  and  because  weather  w as  often  unfavorable,  results  were  not 
proportionate  to  the  effort  made.™  I'he  Ninth’s  fighter-bombers  were 
engrossed  in  their  essential  work  of  close  support  and  in  attacks  on 
road  targets,  and  hence  the  major  American  contribution  to  the  re- 
vised program  was  left  to  IX  Bomber  Command.  Its  attacks  on  Loire 
bridges  had  ended  on  z August,  bridges  on  the  Seine  were  attacked 
only  as  repairs  to  them  required,  and  targets  in  the  Paris-Orleans  gap 
were  the  objectives  of  a comparatively  small  number  of  medium  mis- 
sions flown  through  14  August.  Consequently,  the  mediums  could, 
and  did,  concentrate  their  effort  on  the  other  bridges  listed  in  the  new 
schedules,  beginning  their  strikes  on  second- line  bridges  on  the  3d, 
when  the  new  program  was  not  as  yet  fully  formulated,  and  con- 
tinuing them  through  the  1 6th.  Centering  their  effort  on  twelve  of  the 
seventeen  structures  between  Prevent  in  the  north  and  Neuvy-sur- 
Seine  in  the  south,  they  claimed  that  as  a result  of  single  or  repeated 
attacks  six  were  rendered  unserviceable.  The  Oise  bridge  at  Conflans 
had  been  destroyed  in  May  and  remained  impassable,  but  IX  Bomber 
Command  bombed  seven  of  the  remaining  eight  over  that  river  be- 
tween 9 and  15  August  and  blocked  them  all  at  least  temporarily.87 
Targets  on  the  second  line  were  thus  subjected  to  systematic  attack 
only  in  the  short  period  between  issuance  of  the  9 August  directive 
and  16  August,  when  the  advance  of  Allied  columns  made  the  further 
destruction  of  bridges  “unnecessary  and  even  disadvantageous.”  The 
results  of  the  attacks  delivered  were  naturally  less  than  those  obtained 
by  the  bombing  of  like  targets  on  the  first  line  of  interdiction  during 
a longer  period.  In  the  latter  case,  traffic  had  been  reduced  by  over  96 
per  cent;  in  the  former,  the  traffic  cut  amounted  to  but  65  per  cent. 
This  meant  that  fifty  trains  per  day  might  pass  over  the  twelve  routes 
involved  in  the  second  line.68 

It  is  noteworthy  that  in  the  period  when  the  Germans  were  trying 
to  escape  from  the  gap  and  withdraw  to  the  east  significant  exceptions 
were  made  to  the  rule  of  no  bridge  arracks  w est  of  the  Seine.  In  those 
days,  and  at  Army  requests,  IX  Bomber  Command  not  only  planted 
delayed-action  bombs  on  retreat  routes  but  struck  in  strength  at 
bridges  over  the  Touques  and  Risle  rivers.  The  latter  attacks  were 
concentrated  on  14  August  and  during  the  three  days  which  followed. 
Weather  canceled  one  four-group  mission,  limited  the  effect  of  others, 
and  rendered  difficult  any  accurate  assessment  of  damage  done.  Here 
the  tactical  purpose  was  exclusively  that  of  restraining  the  enemy’s 
retreat.89 


261 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


In  Brittany  and  along  the  Loire 

Although  in  early  August  attention  was  generally  fixed  on  the  Nor- 
mandy battle  area  and  points  to  the  east  of  it,  American  air  forces 
were  compelled  also  to  find  both  time  and  strength  to  support  a de- 
cision to  reduce  St.-Malo  and  Brest  in  Brittany.  XIX  TAC  furnished 
ACC  for  VIII  Corps  columns  as  they  rapidly  converged  on  those  for- 
tresses, and  that  command  continued  to  be  responsible  for  rendering 
the  assistance  requested  by  ground  troops  seeking  their  reduction. 
Fortunately,  the  citadel  of  St.-Malo  was  speedily  disposed  of,  but 
installations  on  the  near-by  lie  de  Cezembre  held  out  until  2 Septem- 
ber and  enemy  forces  at  Brest  persisted  in  a stubborn  defense  until 
19  September. 

The  capture  of  the  citadel  at  St.-Malo  on  17  August  was  one  for 
which  ground  action  was  solely  responsible.  Although  IX  Bomber 
Command  delivered  three  attacks,  the  concrete  shelters  were  so  deep 
that  bombs  barely  made  their  lights  blink  and  the  gun  emplacements 
were  so  well  built  that  not  even  1,000-pound  semiarmor-piercing 
bombs  could  penetrate  them.  The  lie  de  Cezembre  had  such  nuisance 
value  that  a seaborne  assault  was  suggested.  Its  guns  impeded  the 
progress  of  the  attack  on  the  St.-Malo  citadel,  commanded  the  sea 
approaches  to  that  port  and  likewise,  though  in  lesser  degree,  those 
to  Granville  on  the  Cotentin  shore.  Ground  and  naval  artillery  joined 
with  air’s  repeated  bombardment  of  deep-dug  shelters  and  heavily 
built  emplacements.  IX  Bomber  Command  began  its  attack  with  the 
aid  of  flares  on  the  night  of  6/7  August,  and  returned  in  some  force 
three  times  more.  XIX  TAC  used  the  island  as  a target  of  last  resort 
on  one  occasion  and  delivered  a planned  strike  on  the  23d.  Fighter- 
bombers  of  IX  TAC’s  370th  Group,  diverted  from  their  planned 
attack  on  St.-Malo  by  the  citadel’s  surrender,  dropped  napalm  on  the 
obstinate  island  on  17  August  and  again  added  the  spectacular,  and 
much  photographed,  effects  of  that  new  weapon  to  a ground-air-sea 
bombardment  on  the  31st  in  which  RAF  Lancasters  also  joined.  By 
September,  the  combined  effort  of  the  several  services  had  destroyed 
all  of  the  offending  island’s  surface  installations  and  pockmarked  its 
entire  face  with  craters.  Heavy  artillery  found  help  in  dealing  with 
pillboxes  and  embrasures  through  the  removal  of  camouflage  and  earth 
coverings  by  air  bombardment,  but  napalm,  though  burning  out  one 
surface  shelter,  produced  little  effect  on  the  garrison,  whose  casualties 

262 


THE  BATTLE  OF  FRANCE 


were  generally  light.  The  island  stronghold’s  surrender  on  2 Septem- 
ber was  apparently  induced  by  a water  shortage  resulting  from  the 
destruction  of  its  distilling  plant.70 

Operations  designed  to  reduce  Brest,  a port  on  which  high  value 
had  been  placed  as  a potential  supply  base  for  the  advancing  Allied 
armies,  constitute  a strange  and  highly  individual  story.  The  opera- 
tions have  been  properly  described  as  “curiously  independent,”  for 
VIII  Corps  (Ninth  Army  after  5 September)  was  left  far  behind  the 
eastward  thrusting  armies  and  appeared  to  be  fighting  its  own  private 
war.  SHAF.F  and  the  1 2th  Army  Group,  however,  set  so  great  store 
on  the  action  to  which  VIII  Corps  was  committed  that  from  25 
August  until  9 September  air  strikes  in  the  area  were  accorded  a very 
high,  and  at  times  the  highest,  priority.  In  consequence  an  abundance 
of  air  strength  was  employed.71 

From  the  opening  of  the  assault  on  25  August  until  the  final  capitu- 
lation on  19  September,  air  operated  under  distinct  disadvantages.  Its 
power  could  only  be  applied  effectively  if  communications  were  good, 
and  at  Brest  they  were  markedly  deficient.  In  consequence,  ground 
forces  were  often  left  without  knowledge  of  air’s  intentions,  while  air 
too  often  lacked  the  requisite  information  upon  which  to  base  proper, 
and  of  necessity  detailed,  planning  of  operations.  Intelligence  with 
regard  to  the  exact  nature  of  the  targets  to  be  attacked  was  often 
sketchy,  and  on  too  many  occasions  air  was  asked  to  bomb  invulner- 
able targets.  The  service  of  technical  experts,  to  determine  what  tar- 
gets could  be  most  profitably  attacked  and  what  bombs  and  fuzings 
should  be  used,  was  not  employed,  although  available,  and  air-ground 
assaults  were  at  times  badly  coordinated.72 

Since  the  German  garrison  could  receive  neither  reinforcements  nor 
supplies,  and  since  enemy  planes  did  not  operate  in  the  area,  Allied 
air  forces  could  concentrate  their  full  attention  on  direct  tactical  sup- 
port of  the  ground  attack.  Heavy  bombers  of  the  Eighth  were  four 
times  brought  into  play  and  those  of  the  RAF  twice.  The  mediums 
of  IX  Bomber  Command  were  employed  on  six  occasions,  on  one  of 
which  its  new  A-2  6’s  flew  their  first  mission. 

The  defenses  of  Brest  were  rugged,  with  concrete  pillboxes  and  em- 
placements supplementing  the  perimeter  defense  built  around  a series 
of  old  forts  which  had  been  modernized.  In  general  they  were  not 
targets  which  could  be  demolished  by  air  attacks— no  case  was  later 
found  of  a concrete  emplacement  so  destroyed,  and  a 12,000-pound 

263 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


Tallboy  dropped  by  RAF,  which  created  a huge  crater  200  yards 
from  a 105-mm.  gun  emplacement,  failed  to  damage  the  emplacement 
itself.  Under  such  conditions,  and  with  information  so  scanty  and 
communications  so  poor  that  it  took  the  better  part  of  two  days  to 
lay  on  a bomber  strike,  the  missions  of  the  heavies  and  of  mediums 
alike  involved  a considerable  waste  of  effort.  Their  attacks,  made  in 
strength  on  six  different  days  between  25  August  and  14  September, 
did  no  material  damage  to  modern  concrete  structures,  although  they 
destroyed  some  open  emplacements,  pulverized  old  masonry  works, 
and  filled  ancient  moats  with  debris.  In  addition,  they  undoubtedly 
wore  down  the  enemy,  disturbed  his  communications,  and  hurt  his 
morale— to  what  exact  extent  we  cannot  know.  Thanks  to  added  pre- 
cautions and  the  considerable  distance  which  generally  separated  the 
bombers’  targets  from  the  front  lines,  there  were  no  casualties  suffered 
by  friendly  troops  in  these  or  other  air  operations  at  Brest.73 

The  effort  of  fighter-bombers  at  Brest  was  intense,  two  or  more 
groups  from  IX  TAC  being  assigned  to  the  operational  control  of 
XIX  TAC  on  each  day  from  5 to  10  September  to  strengthen  the 
latter’s  available  forces.  With  the  port  accorded  top  priority  on  the 
2d,  it  was  planned  to  use  all  of  XIX  TAC’s  nine  groups  plus  five  or 
more  of  IX  TAC’s  nine,  but  a personal  visit  by  Weyland  to  VIII 
Corps  disclosed  that  the  prevailing  scarcity  of  artillery  ammunition 
so  limited  VIII  Corps  plans  that  a force  of  this  size  could  not  be  used. 
On  the  5 th,  however,  twelve  of  the  Ninth’s  eighteen  fighter-bomber 
groups  were  over  Brest.74  Fighter-bombers  functioned  whenever  fly- 
ing was  possible.  Their  planned  attacks  could  be  delivered  two  to 
six  hours  after  requests  were  received,  and  the  much-used  device  of 
placing  planes  on  air  alert  over  the  assault  area  enabled  ASP’s  to  direct 
them  to  desirable  targets  almost  instantly.  It  should  be  added  that  the 
P-5i’s  of  roth  Photo  Reconnaissance  Group  were  present  throughout 
the  campaign  to  direct  artillery  fires,  and  that  veteran  artillerymen 
rated  their  work  as  the  best  they  had  ever  experienced. 

The  very  presence  of  fighter-bombers  in  an  area  was  a signal  for 
enemy  guns  to  cease  firing,  and  even  near-misses  served  at  least  to 
keep  the  enemy  under  cover.  When  5th  Ranger  Battalion  asked 
fighter-bombers  for  an  attack  on  its  objective,  the  first  sweeps  failed 
to  hit  the  target,  but  subsequent  attacks  struck  home  and  leading  ele- 
ments of  the  Rangers  reached  the  fort  six  minutes  from  the  time  the 
last  bomb  fell.  The  position  was  taken  before  its  garrison  could  organ- 

264 


THE  BATTLE  OF  F R ANCE 


ize  its  defense,  and  one  Ranger,  whose  assault  platoon  of  60  men  had 
taken  247  prisoners,  declared  that  “he  would  never  bitch  about  the 
Air  Corps  again.”  The  29th  Infantry  Division  was  assisted  by  air 
attacks  in  its  capture  of  a series  of  positions.  In  one  defense  installation 
a turret  of  five-inch  steel,  mounted  flush  with  the  ground,  had  been 
unharmed  by  the  near-miss  of  a bomber’s  1,000-pounder,  but  heavy 
artillery,  coupled  with  a fighter-bomber  attack,  allowed  its  capture. 
The  enemy’s  position  on  Hill  100  was  well  emplaced  and  provided 
with  excellent  observation,  but  the  38th  Infantry  Regiment  reported 
that  air  attack  so  effectively  neutralized  the  position  that  it  fell  with- 
out excessive  loss  to  the  assaulting  infantrymen.  The  2d  Infantry  Di- 
vision, to  which  the  38th  belonged,  later  stated  that  “fighter-bombers 
afforded  the  finest  air  support  experienced  by  this  Division  in  the  en- 
tire war  by  striking  designated  targets  from  air  alert.”73  Such  evidence 
from  the  three  divisions  participating  in  the  assault  is  of  the  more 
value  because  the  reports  of  returning  pilots  were  of  necessity  indefi- 
nite as  to  actual  results  obtained  in  missions  which  at  times  operated 
within  150  to  200  yards  of  the  advancing  doughboys. 

Since  early  August  the  protection  of  Third  Army’s  southern  flank 
had  constituted  a distinct  mission  assigned  to  XIX  TAC,  and  develop- 
ments connected  with  its  performance  had  proceeded  along  lines  quite 
as  individual  as  the  operations  at  Brest.  A minimum  force  was  em- 
ployed, for  XIX  TAC  was  forced  to  concentrate  its  strength  in  sup- 
port of  operations  in  Brittany  and  of  Patton’s  rapid  drive  to  the  east. 
Tac/R  missions  were  regularly  flown  south  of  the  Loire  to  spot  any 
possible  enemy  movements,  and  if  information  furnished  by  them  de- 
manded, they  were  followed  up  by  armed  recces.  In  late  August  there 
was  the  greater  need  for  such  action  since  the  enemy,  impelled  by  the 
American  landings  in  southern  France  on  15  August,*  determined  to 
evacuate  that  general  area  and  set  a series  of  columns  in  motion  in  the 
direction  of  Dijon,  where  lay  their  only  chance  to  avoid  encirclement. 
XIX  TAC,  accordingly,  developed  a project  to  interdict  all  rail  move- 
ments from  the  south.  The  better  to  exercise  surveillance  over  the  re- 
gion of  the  enemy’s  retreat  it  pressed  a P/R  squadron,  equipped  for 
night  photography,  into  the  service  of  Tac/R,  and  in  early  September 
spotted  the  columns  of  Maj.  Gen.  Eric  Elster’s  Foot  March  Group 
South  making  their  way  into  the  Poitiers-Chateauroux  area.  Armed 
recces  flown  on  1 and  7 September  by  the  36th  and  405th  Fighter- 

* See  below,  pp.  426-36. 

265 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

Bomber  Groups  took  heavy  toll  of  the  long-drawn-out  columns, 
whose  morale  had  already  been  undermined  by  the  guerrilla  tactics 
of  the  French  Forces  of  the  Interior  and  possibly  by  the  propaganda 
leaflets  which  XIX  TAC  had  dropped  in  the  area. 

On  4 September  the  newly  constituted  Ninth  Army  was  charged 
with  protecting  the  Loire  line  west  from  Orleans,  but  Third  Army’s 
83d  Infantry  Division,  Maj.  Gen.  Robert  C.  Macon  commanding,  still 
maintained  detachments  at  critical  points  along  the  river,  and  its  pa- 
trols operated  south  of  it.  One  such  patrol  learned  that  Elster,  harried 
by  air  and  fearful  of  the  French,  might  be  considering  surrender.  Two 
men  sent  to  his  Chateauroux  headquarters  confirmed  this  information, 
and  on  the  10th  details  for  his  capitulation  were  worked  out  in  a con- 
ference at  Issoudun.  To  impress  the  enemy  commander  with  the  inevi- 
table consequences  of  delay,  a strong  formation  of  the  3 54th  Fighter- 
Bomber  Group  swept  over  Issoudun  during  the  conference,  ready  to 
act  if  the  Americans  displayed  panel  signals.  Elster,  impressed  by  this 
further  show  of  air  power,  agreed  to  march  to  Beaugency  and  there 
surrender.  His  troops  were  allowed  to  retain  their  arms  until  they 
reached  the  river,  but  attendant  planes  threatened  should  they  show 
signs  either  of  hesitation  or  of  fight.  When  negotiations  for  the  capitu- 
lation first  got  under  way,  Patton  asked  to  be  relieved  of  accepting 
the  surrender,  and  on  16  September  Lt.  Gen.  William  H.  Simpson, 
now  commanding  Ninth  Army,  wired  Weyland:  “Inasmuch  as  your 
command  has  been  instrumental  in  accomplishing  this  surrender,  re- 
quest that  you  or  your  representative  be  present  with  General  Macon 
to  accept  the  surrender.”  Accordingly,  and  appropriately,  the  com- 
mander of  XIX  TAC  was  present  at  the  Beaugency  bridge  ceremonies 
on  that  same  day,  and  later  received  a consignment  of  surrendered 
German  Lugers  for  his  unit  commanders.  When  the  count  was  made, 
prisoners  were  found  to  total  754  officers,  18,850  men,  and  2 women. 
XIX  TAC’s  unique  mission  had  been  accomplished.76 

From  Falaise  to  the  Siegfried  Line 

Whether  the  air-ground  effort  involved  was  great  or  small  and 
whether  the  operation  was  accorded  a high  or  a low  priority,  the 
actions  south  of  the  Loire  and  around  the  Breton  ports  were  all  sub- 
sidiary to  the  main  campaign  in  northern  France.  They  developed  on 
its  periphery;  at  the  center  the  relentless  drive  eastward  was  main- 
tained after  the  closing  of  the  Falaise-Argentan  gap,  even  as  it  had 

266 


THE  BATTLE  OF  FRANCE 


been  stoutly  sustained  before  the  pocket  had  appeared  on  war  room 
maps.  While  one  of  Third  Army’s  corps  surged  into  Brittany,  another 
had  closed  on  Argentan,  but  the  third  and  fourth  still  moved  ahead 
toward  the  Seine  and  Yonne.  Even  before  the  gap  was  closed  XV 
Corps  swung  away  from  Argentan  and  raced  away  eastward  to  join 
its  fellows  in  Patton’s  epic  “end  run.”  With  the  gap  closed,  the  U.S. 
First  Army  and  then  the  British  and  Canadians  of  21  Army  Group 
joined  in  the  drive  east.  On  19  August,  the  very  day  that  Polish  and 
American  armor  struck  hands  at  Chambois,  Patton’s  79th  Infantry 
Division  flung  a bridgehead  across  the  Seine  near  Mantes,  and  XV 
Corps  pushed  north  along  the  west  bank  of  the  river.  Enemy  intelli- 
gence appreciated  the  American  intent  to  cut  off  the  Fifth  Panzer 
Army  and  the  Seventh  Army  in  Normandy  and  then  turn  eastward. 
On  the  23  d,  FUSA  took  over  the  American  zone  north  of  Paris  and 
Third  Army  concentrated  on  forcing  Seine  crossings  to  the  south 
where  it  passed  the  river  barrier  at  Melun  and  Fontainebleau  on  the 
24th  arid  at  Troyes  a day  later.  At  the  same  time  the  British  and  Ca- 
nadians reached  the  Seine  in  their  zone  and  began  their  crossings  on 
the  25  th.  That  day  saw  Paris  liberated  and  the  area  between  the  Seine 
and  the  Loire  freed  of  the  enemy.  It  was  D plus  80  and  the  Allies  were 
now  a full  ten  days  ahead  of  schedule.77 

First  Army  drove  in  the  direction  of  the  German  frontier  with  such 
success  that  within  three  weeks  its  units  were  in  five  countries.  They 
passed  the  Soissons  escarpment  on  3 1 August,  entered  Sedan  on  7 Sep- 
tember, Liege  on  the  9th,  and  liberated  Luxembourg  on  the  10th.  On 
the  1 ith  they  crossed  the  German  frontier,  and  as  they  freed  Maas- 
tricht on  14  September,  they  penetrated  the  outer  defenses  of  the 
Siegfried  Line  south  of  Aachen.  Third  Army’s  timetable  was  even 
more  startling.  Its  thrusting  divisions  turned  the  Somme-Mame  line 
before  it  could  be  occupied,  crossed  the  Meuse  at  Commercy  and  at 
St.-Mihiel  on  3 1 August,  and  farther  north  at  Verdun  two  days  later. 
Although  American  patrols  were  in  Metz  for  only  a brief  moment  on 
2 September  and  the  first  bridgehead  over  the  Meuse  at  Pont-a-Mous- 
son  was  withdrawn  the  day  following  the  crossing,  a small  but  solid 
bridgehead  was  established  to  the  south  of  Metz  between  the  7th  and 
the  10th.  Farther  south,  firm  contact  was  established  on  1 1 September 
with  Lt.  Gen.  Alexander  M.  Patch’s  Seventh  Army,  which  had  moved 
rapidly  up  the  Rhone,  and  five  days  later  Third  Army  units  entered 
Nancy.  In  the  extreme  north,  the  British  captured  the  commanding 

267 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


general  of  the  German  Seventh  Army  as  they  swept  into  Amiens  on 
31  August,  and  leaving  forces  to  contain  the  German  garrisons  of 
Channel  ports,  they  liberated  Brussels  on  4 September  and  entered 
Antwerp  on  the  day  following.78 

During  this  wild  rush  to  the  east,  the  TAC’s  were  strained  to  the 
utmost  to  fulfil  their  obligations  to  their  companion  armies.  Unfortu- 
nately, but  unavoidably,  their  capabilities  of  giving  the  support  de- 
sired were  reduced  throughout  this  period  by  the  high  priorities  ac- 
corded Brest.  Moreover,  they  were  placed  at  a further  disadvantage 
in  respect  both  to  communications  and  to  bases.  It  was  bad  enough 
that  directors  of  operations  should  be  forced  to  replace  their  large- 
scale  maps  with  others  offering  less  detail  but  on  a scale  which  would 
allow  the  battle  front  to  be  shown  in  the  limited  space  available  for 
display.  It  was  infinitely  worse  for  both  operations  and  intelligence 
when  the  scale  of  available  communications  was  similarly  reduced, 
as  it  must  needs  be  in  a period  of  rapid  advance.  To  make  up  in  part 
for  inevitable  deficiencies  the  Ninth  applied  Brereton’s  old  maxim, 
“Keep  Mobile.”  Its  own  advanced  headquarters  moved  to  Versailles 
with  those  of  12  th  Army  Group  on  6 September,  and  by  the  12  th  its 
rear  headquarters  had  moved  from  its  Berkshire  home  at  Ascot  to 
Chantilly. 

Such  moves,  however,  were  as  nothing  compared  to  the  enforced 
mobility  of  the  TAC’s.  Tactical  needs  required  that  their  commanders 
continue  in  intimate  association  with  their  respective  armies.  The  mere 
existence  of  a mobile  advanced  headquarters  was  not  enough  to  fill 
the  requirements  of  August  and  early  September  1944,  although  such 
units  were  regularly  jumped  forward.  Special  detachments  were, 
therefore,  improvised  to  match  the  breathless  pace  set  by  the  forward 
headquarters  of  Hodges’  First  and  Patton’s  Third  Army.  These  de- 
tachments managed  to  maintain  at  least  the  essential  minimum  touch 
with  their  own  operational  headquarters  through  a sometimes  odd  as- 
sortment of  communications  links,  but  as  a precaution  against  com- 
munications failure  the  TAC’s  wings  were  kept  so  fully  briefed  that 
they  could  function  autonomously.  Armies  shortened  their  communi- 
cations with  their  fighting  units  as  their  headquarters  moved  toward 
the  front  lines,  but  the  forward  movement  of  air  headquarters  greatly 
increased  the  problem  of  maintaining  the  volume  of  communications 
traffic  necessary  for  their  direction  of  operations  from  bases  which 
now  lay  ever  farther  to  their  rear.  Enthusiastic  cooperation  between 

268 


THE  BATTLE  OF  FRANCE 


Ninth  Air  Force  and  12th  Army  Group  signal  officers,  who  pooled 
their  resources  in  men  and  materials  for  the  solution  of  their  joint 
problem,  did  much  to  reduce  the  difficulties  inevitable  in  days  when 
air  was  impelled  to  give  signal  equipment  a priority  equal  to  that  en- 
joyed by  bombs  and  gasoline  and  when  armies  devised  wire-recovery 
programs.  Happily  the  need  for  wire  was  reduced  by  the  fact  that  the 
patient  skill  of  signal  troops  permitted  generous  use  to  be  made  of  the 
underground  cables  of  both  the  French  civilian  and  the  German  mili- 
tary systems.  Terminal  installations  had  generally  been  destroyed, 
either  by  bombing  or  by  demolition,  but  they  could  be  replaced  far 
more  easily  than  miles  of  wire  could  be  strung.  Radio  proved  a god- 
send, and  to  improve  its  facilities  a task  force  from  the  Ninth’s  signal 
personnel  seized  the  Eiffel  Tower  on  the  day  Paris  was  liberated. 
Thereafter  this  tourists’  mecca  served  as  the  most  important  relay  link 
in  that  air  force’s  elaborate  radio  network.79 

It  is  a cardinal  principle  that  if  the  optimum  tactical  results  are  to  be 
obtained  air  bases  must  be  as  close  as  possible  to  the  battle  lines.  On 
9 August  the  last  of  the  Ninth’s  eighteen  fighter-bomber  groups  was 
established  on  a continental  field,  and  in  the  closing  weeks  of  that 
month  four  groups  of  mediums  began  operations  from  Normandy 
bases.  This  was  a real  gain  but  after  Falaise  it  was  in  part  offset,  for  the 
time  consumed  in  individual  sorties  increased  sharply  as  the  battle 
lines  raced  away  from  existing  bases.  No  one  was  more  conscious  of 
the  gravity  of  this  problem  and  of  the  need  for  an  adequate  solution 
than  the  Ninth’s  aviation  engineers.  They  reconnoitered  possible  sites 
from  L-4’s  and  on  the  ground  and  sought  a greater  efficiency  through 
decentralizing  operational  controls.  They  secured  asphalt  from  local 
sources  and  devised  top  surfacing  for  crater  fills  from  a compound  of 
old  surfacing,  new  tar,  and  diesel  oil.  When  the  railway  from  Cher- 
bourg to  Paris  was  opened,  they  painted  an  identifying  symbol  on  the 
caboose  of  a train  bearing  precious  materials,  shadowed  the  train  thus 
branded  from  an  L-4,  and  had  trucks  waiting  for  the  shipment  as  the 
train  came  to  a halt  in  the  Paris  yards. 

By  mid-September  only  one  of  the  Ninth’s  fighter-bomber  groups 
was  based  on  the  continental  field  it  had  first  occupied,  while  three 
had  moved  four  times  and  one  no  less  than  five,  in  most  cases  to  a 
newly  opened  strip.  By  that  same  date  five  groups  were  disposed 
fairly  well  forward  in  an  arc  from  Peronne  to  Reims,  with  two  others 
in  the  Paris  area.  But  if  the  lack  of  ideally  sited  fields  occasioned  no 

269 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

serious  delays  in  operations,  it  did  give  rise  to  difficulties  in  the  con- 
duct of  air  missions  to  the  east.  It  was  easy  enough  for  planes  based 
on  the  Cotentin  or  in  Brittany  to  operate  against  Brest,  but  when  they 
were  called  upon  to  support  Patton’s  advance,  auxiliary  fuel  tanks  or 
refueling  at  a more  easterly  field  might  be  necessary  to  carry  them 
forward  from  their  home  base.  Roulement  again  came  into  vogue  at  a 
time  when  armies  were  advancing  with  such  speed  that  a move  from 
one  field  to  another  200  miles  nearer  the  front  did  not  always  obviate 
the  need  for  belly  tanks.  Because  of  the  existing  transportation  crisis, 
moreover,  ordnance  supplies  on  the  new  strips  at  times  ran  perilously 
low,  with  pre-stocking  and  resupply  equally  difficult  to  effect,  but 
airdrome  squadrons,  repeatedly  displacing  forward,  managed  to  ready 
the  new  fields  and  keep  the  planes  flying,  just  as  armorers  serviced 
their  weapons  with  remarkable  efficiency  under  the  most  trying  con- 
ditions.80 

Everything  in  condition  to  fly  added  its  weight  to  the  momentum 
of  the  great  drive.  Tiny  L-q-’s  afforded  valuable  liaison  between 
ground  commanders,  continued  their  ever  useful  functions  as  air  OP’s, 
and  found  new  assignments  in  assisting  to  control  ground  columns  and 
in  serving  as  “horseflys”  to  guide  fighter-bombers  to  targets  selected 
by  ground.  Air  Despatch  Letter  Service  was  never  more  active.  10th 
Photo  Reconnaissance  and  67th  Tactical  Reconnaissance  Groups,  their 
activities  on  occasion  supplemented  by  reconnaissance  units  of  the 
Eighth,  continued  to  perform  the  varied  tasks  which  they  had  assumed 
before  D-day.  In  their  earlier  performance  of  assigned  missions  they 
had  not  merely  observed  and  photographed  but  had  directed  the  fires 
of  naval  artillery.  They  had  quickly  dispelled  Army’s  early  fears  lest 
the  pilots  of  high-performance  aircraft  prove  incapable  of  adjusting 
artillery  fire.  In  the  course  of  the  COBRA  breakout  such  action  had 
made  possible  the  successful  engagement  of  eighty-one  targets,  and 
the  pilots  met  all  the  precise  requirements  of  the  highly  specialized 
arm  which  they  served.  A special  premium  was  placed  on  visual  re- 
connaissance as  the  period  of  highly  mobile  warfare  began,  but  the 
reconnaissance  groups  continued  their  photographic  missions  and  on 
1 2 September  reported  that  they  had  completed  the  full  coverage  of 
the  Siegfried  Line  and  the  Rhine  area  which  Army  had  requested. 
American  ground  forces  regretted  that  single-seater  planes  did  not 
allow  as  effective  observation  as  was  wished  for,  and  that  facilities 
available  for  the  mass  production  of  prints  and  the  quick  dissemination 


270 


THE  BATTLE  OF  FRANCE 


of  intelligence  to  ground  units,  particularly  to  divisions,  were  insuffi- 
cient to  meet  their  heavy  requirements.  However,  as  the  enemy  early 
remarked,  “widespread  reconnaissance  was  almost  immediately  trans- 
formed into  attacks.”81 

IX  Bomber  Command  was  frequently  weather  bound.  Nevertheless, 
as  German  forces  were  pinned  into  the  forested  bends  of  the  Seine 
about  Rouen,  the  mediums  struck  at  hidden  targets  there  on  20,  26, 
and  27  August,  while  every  day  from  the  26th  through  the  31st  they 
bombed  enemy  dumps  east  of  the  Seine.  Only  a fraction  of  the  planes 
dispatched  on  1 1 and  1 2 September  to  blast  Siegfried  Line  positions 
in  front  of  VII  Corps  were  able  to  attack,  but  in  strikes  on  the  16th 
at  the  viaduct  near  Arnemuiden  they  damaged  that  communication 
link  with  the  island  of  Zuid  Beveland  at  the  mouth  of  the  Schelde  and 
the  mainland. 

The  services  of  fighter-bombers  were  greatly  in  demand  for  close 
support  in  the  extremely  mobile  type  of  warfare  that  became  the 
vogue  as  columns  forced  river  barriers  and  moved  across  the  Picardy 
plains  or  the  rolling  countryside  of  Champagne.  The  form  which  such 
actions  took  had  become  somewhat  stereotyped  since  St.-Lo,  as  mis- 
sion after  mission  took  off  for  armed  recce  or  ACC.  The  only  marked 
variants  on  the  established  themes  now  exhibited  were  that  fuel  tanks 
often  replaced  bombs  on  wing  shackles  and  that  the  tremendous  fire- 
power of  the  P-47  was  more  than  ever  conspicuous.  The  concentrated 
stream  of  projectiles  discharged  by  its  eight  50-mm.  machine  guns  tore 
through  thin-skinned  vehicles  and,  by  ricochet  from  roads  into  the 
soft  undersides  of  tanks  or  by  direct  penetration  of  the  air  vents  in 
their  afterdecks,  could  even  put  panzers  out  of  action.  Since  incen- 
diary bullets  were  used,  gasoline  fires  often  resulted.  The  effect  of 
strafing  attacks  directed  against  personnel  was  fearful,  and  the  enemy 
estimated  that  only  20  per  cent  of  those  wounded  by  air  returned  to 
duty  as  against  40  to  50  per  cent  of  those  wounded  in  ground  actions.82 
Air  attack  often  took  the  place  of  artillery,  which  was  less  readily 
available  under  the  conditions  which  prevailed  in  August  and  Septem- 
ber. But  the  novelty  of  armed  recce  and  of  ACC  had  in  some  measure 
worn  off;  hundreds  of  pilots  were  actually  making  history  every  day, 
but  few  of  them  cared  to  do  more  than  enter  a formal  record  of  the 
missions  which  they  had  flown.  Their  work  had  become  routine— they 
were  merely  doing  the  expected— and  ground  forces  seem  to  have 
shared  their  mood.  Hence  the  historian  conspicuously  lacks  detailed 


271 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


evidence  of  the  results  achieved  on  many  vital  missions,  now  described 
as  “milk  runs.” 

Nevertheless,  ground  bore  testimony  to  the  fact  that  airmen  were 
living  up  to  expectations.  VII  Corps,  which  IX  TAC  served,  declared: 
“We  could  not  possibly  have  gotten  as  far  as  we  did,  as  fast  as  we  did 
and  with  as  few  casualties  without  the  wonderful  air  support  that  we 
have  persistently  had.”83  Patton  had  early  developed  an  enthusiasm  for 
air  support  which  grew  as  his  drive  progressed.  Confident  of  the  accu- 
racy of  fighter-bomber  attacks,  he  recommended  that  bomb  lines  be 
done  away  with  so  far  as  ACC  was  concerned,  since  they  could  not  be 
advanced  with  a speed  equal  to  that  of  his  troops.  The  general  de- 
clared that  the  destruction  of  enemy  transport  and  troop  concentra- 
tions ahead  of  his  columns,  together  with  the  information  passed  to 
them  from  the  air,  had  “saved  time  and  lives,”  and  he  classified  the 
cooperation  of  XIX  TAC  as  “the  best  example  of  the  combined  use  of 
air  and  ground  troops  that  I have  ever  witnessed.”84  Not  every  mission 
was  successful.  At  times  radio  performed  badly,  though  this  was  in 
part  overcome  by  a reassignment  of  frequencies  for  use  in  ground-air 
conversations,  and  at  other  times  empty  fuel  tanks  cut  missions  short. 
But  on  the  20th,  to  look  at  the  reverse  side  of  the  coin,  7th  Armored 
Division  west  of  the  Seine  gave  the  eight  covering  planes  of  the  362d 
Group  a tank  target.  Search  disclosed  six  well-camouflaged  panzers. 
Since  they  were  close  to  American  forces  the  squadron  leader  searched 
the  target  at  a very  low  altitude  and  then,  from  a more  lofty  perch 
overhead,  directed  his  companions  in  the  individual  attacks  which  de- 
stroyed the  enemy  force. 

The  enemy  was  striving  mightily  to  extricate  his  forces  and  suc- 
ceeded in  moving  a considerable  mass  of  men  across  the  Seine,  using  a 
variety  of  devices  at  some  sixty  points  along  the  river.  But  his  loss  of 
equipment  was  appalling— infantry  divisions  which  escaped  to  the  east 
carried  with  them  only  single  guns  and  were  “mobile  only  to  the  ex- 
tent that  they  had  some  confiscated  horses,”  while  panzer  divisions 
had  only  from  five  to  ten  tanks  each.85  During  the  days  when  the  roads 
leading  to  the  Seine  were  crowded  with  the  fleeing  enemy,  IX  TAC’s 
units  submitted  mounting  claims  for  road  transport  destroyed.  On  1 8 
August  they  joined  with  corps  artillery  in  destroying  barges  on  the 
Seine  and  soon  brought  ferries  under  attack.  Bridges  were  more  than 
ever  essential  to  the  enemy,  but  Quesada’s  pilots  were  old  hands  at  de- 
stroying them  and  they  again  showed  their  skill.  On  the  18th  they 

272 


THE  BATTLE  OF  FRANCE 


blasted  a pontoon  near  I -es  Andelys,  three  days  later  they  hit  a wood- 
en bridge  in  process  of  construction,  and  on  the  25th  the  368th  Group 
delivered  a final  blow  at  Oissel.  The  partly  repaired  emergency  rail 
bridge  there  was  being  used  for  vehicular  traffic  at  the  time  of  the 
attack,  and  trucks  were  bumper  to  bumper  on  it  when  it  was  de- 
stroyed. The  resulting  road  block  piled  up  a line  of  vehicles  extending 
back  into  the  countryside  for  at  least  five  miles.  Later  investigators 
found  them  burned,  either  by  strafing  or  by  their  crews.8fl  Further  to 
harass  the  enemy,  IX  TAC  also  struck  at  enemy  airfields,  the  majority 
of  which  it  was  itself  to  occupy  before  the  Battle  of  France  had  ended. 

The  enemy’s  position  on  the  ground  was  clearly  desperate  as  August 
closed,  and  once  again  the  Luftwaffe  attempted  to  give  aid.  But  in  the 
“Y”  service  provided  by  the  3d  Radio  Squadron  Mobile  of  the  Ninth 
Air  Force  there  were  skilled  linguists,  thoroughly  familiar  with  the 
colloquial  chatter  of  enemy  pilots  and  ground  controllers.  Since  land- 
ing in  Normandy  on  D plus  3,  this  unit  had  been  regularly  credited 
with  kills  which  their  information  enabled  attacking  planes  to  make. 
On  24  August  they  recommended  sweeps  over  German  fields  at  times 
when  the  enemy  was  accustomed  to  use  them  heavily.  The  result 
helped  to  make  2 5 August  a red-letter  day  for  the  Ninth  as  regards 
enemy  aircraft  destroyed  in  the  air  and  on  the  ground,  for  on  the 
basis  of  information  furnished  by  “Y,”  the  367th  and  474th  Fighter- 
Bomber  Groups  flew  missions  against  airfields  in  the  St.-Quentin- 
Laon  area  where  air  combats  resulted  in  total  claims  of  forty-one 
enemy  planes  destroyed  for  a loss  of  eighteen.  On  the  same  day,  again 
acting  on  intelligence  reports,  units  from  the  365th,  367th,  and  370th 
Groups  demolished  thirty-three  planes  on  fields  near  Cognac  and  Di- 
jon, including  in  their  claims  thirty  Ju-88’s  which  the  enemy  was 
known  to  be  using  for  air  evacuation.  To  round  out  the  day’s  action, 
the  354th  Group  claimed  thirteen  enemy  aircraft  destroyed  on  the 
ground  at  Beauvais  and  Reims  and,  in  three  attacks  on  numerically 
superior  enemy  formations  in  the  air  east  of  Paris,  claimed  thirty-six 
destroyed  for  the  known  loss  of  five  with  other  aircraft  unaccounted 
for.87 

Among  a myriad  of  small  incidents  whose  aggregate  tactical  results 
assumed  impressive  proportions,  three  actions  stand  out.  As  First 
Army  drove  through  Maubeuge  and  Valenciennes  at  the  rate  of  sixty 
miles  in  two  days  a mass  of  retreating  Germans  were  caught  behind 
the  converging  columns  of  VII  and  XIX  Corps.  The  Mons  pocket 


273 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

thus  formed  by  3 September  extended  as  far  back  as  Compiegne  and 
included  troops  from  some  twenty  different  enemy  divisions.  IX  TAC 
joined  in  working  over  this  confused  mass  and  took  heavy  toll  of 
vehicles  and  personnel  before  the  pocket  was  mopped  up  and  over 
25,000  Germans  made  prisoners  of  war.  A second  significant  series  of 
actions  occurred  as  TUSA’s  troops  forced  a crossing  of  the  Moselle 
between  Metz  and  Pont-a-Mousson  between  8 and  1 1 September.  The 
enemy  resisted  the  crossing  stoutly  and  launched  repeated  counter- 
attacks once  American  troops  had  reached  the  east  bank.  In  support, 
IX  Bomber  Command  struck  successfully  at  bridges  north  of  Nancy 
to  block  the  movement  of  possible  enemy  reinforcements,  while 
fighter-bombers  hit  at  targets  indicated  by  ground  in  the  immediate 
front  of  American  units  and  on  their  flanks,  tank  concentrations  being 
their  favorite  assignment.  In  one  attack  on  such  an  objective  a unit 
from  the  406th  Group  made  forty  individual  passes  at  fifteen  tanks 
near  Arry  on  10  September  and  was  confident  that  all  had  been  immo- 
bilized or  destroyed.  On  the  1 ith,  XX  Corps  reported  that  the  air  at- 
tacks of  the  preceding  day  had  greatly  facilitated  the  assault  on  the 
front  of  the  5th  Infantry  Division.  Emplacements  had  been  knocked 
out  and  groups  of  Germans  had  surrendered  in  the  midst  of  the  bom- 
bardment. The  division  itself  paid  tribute  to  air  for  help  rendered  in 
establishing  and  consolidating  the  bridgehead.  Ground’s  only  regret 
was  that  more  fighter-bombers  had  not  been  available.88 

The  third  special  air  support  action  developed  in  the  region  covered 
by  the  Foret  de  la  Haye,  on  the  western  outskirts  of  Nancy,  simultane- 
ously with  the  struggle  for  the  Moselle  bridgehead.  The  thickly 
wooded  area  was  well  defended  with  strongpoints  and  its  garrison  had 
recently  been  reinforced,  but  it  was  cleared  by  the  15th.  Here  IX 
Bomber  Command  furnished  the  principal  air  support.  B-2  6’s  and 
A-2o’s  joined  in  heavy  attacks  against  strongpoints  on  the  10th  and 
repeated  the  operation  in  reduced  strength  on  the  12th.  These  blows, 
plus  the  operations  of  fighter-bombers  which  choked  off  further  rein- 
forcement of  the  enemy,  helped  to  force  his  almost  immediate  with- 
drawal. The  results  of  the  action  were  twofold:  added  insurance  for 
the  growing  American  bridgehead  to  the  north  and  the  occupation  of 
Nancy  itself  on  1 6 September.89 

On  1 1 and  1 2 September  the  GAF  again  became  active,  fighting  like 
the  rest  of  the  Wehrmacht  to  gain  time  for  the  development  and  man- 
ning of  defense  positions  along  the  German  border.  On  the  first  of 

274 


THE  BATTLE  OF  FRANCE 


these  days,  IX  TAC’s  formations  sighted  seventy  hostile  planes  and 
engaged  in  two  encounters  over  enemy  territory.  On  the  day  follow- 
ing as  many  more  were  sighted,  though  only  a single  combat  even- 
tuated. In  these  actions  by  the  365th,  368th,  and  474th  Groups, 
twenty-five  enemy  planes  were  claimed  destroyed  for  the  loss  of  six. 
On  the  nth,  the  406th  Group  of  XIX  TAC  claimed  six  for  two  in  an 
encounter  over  Landau.  The  day  following,  405th  Group  claimed  five 
for  two,  while  the  354th,  attacking  in  the  Frankfurt-Limburg  area, 
claimed  nine  demolished  on  the  ground  and,  as  a result  of  air  encoun- 
ters with  larger  German  formations,  added  claims  of  thirty  destroyed 
to  its  already  impressive  record.  The  group’s  own  losses  were  two 
planes.  Once  more  its  pilots  reported  that  the  enemy  appeared  inexpe- 
rienced, though  aggressive. 

Air  Supply 

In  the  course  of  August  and  the  opening  weeks  of  September  the 
Allied  armies  had  pushed  nearly  400  miles  eastward.  Movement  meant 
increased  consumption  of  gasoline,  and  the  arrival  of  new  divisions 
heightened  the  demand  for  all  classes  of  supplies.  The  expenditure  of 
ammunition  was  phenomenal— in  a single  month  the  armies  used  eight 
million  rounds  of  artillery  and  mortar  shells  as  against  the  total  of  ten 
million  used  by  the  American  Expeditionary  Force  in  the  entire  period 
of  the  first  world  war.90  As  soon  as  the  sweep  into  Brittany  began  sup- 
ply officers  in  all  echelons  experienced  the  pressure  applied  by  tbe 
lengthening  of  the  routes  which  their  trucks  must  cover,  and  they  be- 
came painfully  aware  that  each  mile  of  advance  doubled  the  problem 
of  supply  by  trucks,  since  all  computations  must  be  based  on  a round 
trip  starting  at  their  base.  By  the  end  of  August  the  situation  had  be- 
come acute.  The  12th  Army  Group  admonished  its  armies  that  they 
must  be  prepared  to  extend  their  own  lines  of  supply  to  the  maximum 
and  demanded  rigid  economy  in  the  use  of  supplies.91 

Communications  Zone  trucks  operated  on  a 24-hour  basis,  and  Red 
Ball  express  highways  were  created  to  expedite  traffic.  By  8 Septem- 
ber, the  Red  Ball  service  extended  to  Soissons  and  precarious  rail  con- 
nections reached  from  Cherbourg  to  the  vicinity  of  Chalons,  in  spite 
of  the  damage  done  by  Allied  bombings  and  the  havoc  wrought  by 
German  demolitions.  Every  conceivable  type  of  transport  was 
brought  into  play  from  lumbering  tank-recovery  vehicles  to  the  light 
trucks  which  once  had  been  rated  as  the  property  of  field  artillery 


275 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


units,  Chemical  Warfare  Service,  or  IX  Air  Defense  Command.92  But 
the  problem  remained  acute,  for  the  armies  continued  to  put  space  be- 
tween the  new  rail  and  truck  heads  and  their  own  front  lines,  with  the 
result  that  at  the  end  of  the  Battle  of  France  the  intervening  distance 
was  at  least  as  great  as  it  had  been  in  the  campaign’s  early  stages.  For- 
tunately, the  degree  of  air  supremacy  enjoyed  by  the  Allies  allowed 
road  transport  to  operate  around  the  clock  and  speeded  night  traffic 
by  allowing  the  “light  line”*  to  be  carried  well  forward.  After  21 
August,  First  Army  never  received  enough  gasoline  to  cover  in  full  a 
day’s  requests,  nor  could  those  of  the  Third  Army  be  answered.  Both 
were  able  to  alleviate  the  situation  a little  by  making  use  of  captured 
rations,  medical  stores,  and  wire,  but  the  Third  bitterly  lamented  that 
German  gasoline  was  not  suited  to  propel  American  tanks.  Reserves 
dwindled  and  disappeared,  and  issues  were  made  “on  a day  to  day,  or 
even  an  hour  to  hour,  basis.”93 

As  the  crisis  developed  it  was  natural  that  the  possibility  of  provid- 
ing relief  by  airlift  should  be  examined.  In  pre-invasion  planning  atten- 
tion had  been  focused  on  tactical  operations,  with  little  thought  ac- 
corded air’s  potential  in  connection  with  the  logistics  of  the  coming 
campaigns,94  and  since  then  air  transport  facilities  had  been  developed 
chiefly  as  an  aid  to  emergency  supply  of  critical  items.  Beginning  on 
D plus  6,  air  supply  had  been  used  to  remedy  deficiencies  in  stocks  of 
mortar  shells,  and  in  the  period  of  the  great  storm  which  broke  on  the 
beaches  on  19  June,  troop  carriers  brought  in  approximately  1,400 
tons  of  critical  supplies.  But  however  helpful  the  planes  might  be  in 
the  supply  of  special  items,  they  could  carry  only  a small  fraction  of 
the  armies’  total  requirement,95  and  the  emphasis,  with  reference  to  air 
operations,  continued  to  be  placed  on  tactical  support.  Even  in  the 
emergency  of  late  August,  tactical  needs  came  into  sharp  conflict  with 
those  of  supply.  Between  19  August  and  6 September,  special  airfields 
were  hurriedly  constructed  or  reconditioned  for  transport  use  near 
Le  Mans,  Orleans,  and  Reims.98  But  the  operations  of  troop  carrier  air- 
craft, which  constituted  the  bulk  of  the  planes  suitable  for  transport, 
depended  upon  a decision  by  supreme  headquarters  as  to  whether  sup- 
ply of  the  advancing  ground  armies  or  pending  airborne  operations, 
intended  to  speed  the  collapse  of  German  resistance,  should  receive 
priority.  Three  times  before  it  was  determined  to  carry  out  the  Arn- 
hem drop  after  10  September  plans  were  made  for  use  of  the  newly 

* I.e.,  the  point  behind  the  lines  up  to  which  trucks  might  use  their  lights. 

276 


THE  BATTLE  OF  FRANCE 


created  First  Airborne  Army  and  as  often  abandoned.  Only  on  occa- 
sion, therefore,  could  air’s  full  resources  be  applied  to  the  relief  of 
ground’s  distress,  for  when  plans  called  for  an  air  drop  the  troop  car- 
riers necessarily  stood  by.97 

Air  transport  efforts,  however,  were  by  no  means  inconsiderable. 
As  the  ground  forces  threatened  to  run  off  the  eastern  edges  of  avail- 
able maps  and  the  need  developed  for  detailed  planning  of  opera- 
tions in  German  territory,  over  200  tons  of  maps,  hurriedly  provided 
by  civilian  presses  in  Great  Britain  and  by  the  engineer  topographical 
battalions  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force,  were  lifted  to  their  destinations  by 
air.08  In  the  attempt  to  meet  the  need  for  gasoline,  the  B-24’s  of  the 
Eighth  Air  Force  were  also  pressed  into  service,  each  bomb  bay  being 
loaded  with  200  five-gallon  cans  of  the  precious  fluid.  The  assistance 
thus  rendered  the  ground  forces  was  substantial,  but  the  heavy  bomb- 
ers, by  breaking  up  advanced  runways,  imposed  a new  burden  on  the 
hard  pressed  aviation  engineers  and  the  diversion  of  the  B-24’s  un- 
avoidably restricted  the  Eighth’s  strategic  activity.99  Intermittently, 
the  troop  carriers  were  made  available  for  full-scale  operations.  Their 
best  effort  came  in  the  ten-day  period  extending  from  5 through  14 
September  with  a total  of  over  5,200  sorties  flown,  851  being  the  high 
for  a single  day  and  35  the  low.  During  this  period  the  troop  carriers 
alone  delivered  over  15,000  tons  of  freight,  including  nearly  2,500,000 
gallons  of  gasoline;  but  at  that  time  First  Army,  which  enjoyed  a sup- 
ply priority,  had  a consumption  rate  averaging  571,000  gallons  per 
day  and  Third  Army’s  daily  requests  exceeded  1,000,000  gallons.100 
It  is  clear  that  had  air  transport’s  best  effort  been  sustained,  without 
interruption  by  weather  or  the  claims  of  other  activities,  it  could  not 
have  been  enough.  And  only  more  careful  planning  in  anticipation  of 
the  need  could  bave  substantially  increased  the  capacity  available. 

As  early  as  27  August,  the  12th  Army  Group  had  decided  that  “the 
armies  will  go  as  far  as  practicable  and  then  wait  until  the  supply  sys- 
tem in  rear  will  permit  further  advance.”101  By  mid-September  the 
limit  was  just  about  reached.  To  quote  the  group’s  own  report:  “The 
Third  Army  was  grinding  to  a stop,  not  from  enemy  resistance,  but 
from  lack  of  fuel.  . . . Spent  by  a month  and  a half  of  continuous  fight- 
ing and  movement  in  which  it  had  advanced  more  than  400  miles 
across  France  and  Belgium,  Twelfth  Army  Group  . . . had  been 
brought  to  a halt  along  the  line  of  the  Moselle  River  and  the  Siegfried 
defenses.”102 


277 


CHAPTER  9 


THE  STRATEGIC  BOMBER 
STRIKES  AHEAD 


THE  contribution  of  the  strategic  air  forces  to  the  initial  suc- 
cess of  OVERLORD  had  been  decisive.  The  long  and  costly 
offensive  against  German  air  power  had  produced  the  air  su- 
premacy required  by  the  liberating  armies,  and  the  destruction  of  rail- 
way centers,  airfields,  and  coastal  defenses— vital  preliminaries  to  the 
invasion— had  been  for  the  most  part  the  work  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force 
and  RAF  Bomber  Command.  And  the  strategic  air  forces  would  con- 
tinue to  play  a conspicuous  part  in  making  possible  the  progress  of  the 
land  armies  until  the  war  was  won. 

During  the  summer  of  1944,  most  of  the  bombing  effort  expended 
by  the  heavies  went  into  so-called  tactical  operations  for  the  benefit  of 
the  ground  forces:  attacks  on  marshalling  yards,  bridges,  airfield  instal- 
lations, and  supply  dumps  behind  German  lines,  as  well  as  the  spectac- 
ular saturation  of  enemy  positions  at  Caen  on  1 8 July  and  near  St.-Lo 
on  25  July.*  Also,  they  were  called  upon  for  extensive  CROSSBOW 
operations, + and  late  in  the  summer  some  of  the  strategic  bombers  were 
converted  into  transports  in  order  to  remedy  the  supply  emergency 
brought  about  by  Patton’s  brilliant  drive  across  France.  Even  the  most 
staunch  proponents  of  strategic  air  warfare  usually  appreciated  the 
necessity  of  furnishing  direct  assistance  to  the  land  forces,  and  the 
praise  of  ground  force  commanders  was  gratifying.1  But  it  was  clear 
that  the  offensive  against  German  war  production  suffered  whenever 
the  heavy  bombers  devoted  their  tonnages  to  tactical  targets.  As  the 
strategic  air  commanders  judged  the  situation,  they  were  now  for  the 
first  time  in  a position  to  implement  a truly  systematic  campaign  di- 
rected at  Germany’s  war-making  capacity.  They  possessed  sufficient 

* See  above,  pp.  208,  231-33.  1 See  below,  pp.  527-34. 


278 


THE  STRATEGIC  BOMBER  STRIKES  AHEAD 

forces  for  such  an  undertaking,  they  ruled  the  air,  and  they  had  amply 
fulfilled  their  commitments  to  blast  the  way  for  a successful  D-day. 
However  greatly  the  strategic  bomber  could  contribute  to  the  success 
of  the  land  campaign,  its  primary  role  was  to  weaken  and  destroy  the 
enemy’s  ability  and  willingness  to  wage  war. 

The  temptation  of  land  and  tactical  air  commanders  to  demand 
assistance  was  particularly  strong  during  the  discouragingly  protracted 
period  when  the  armies  were  confined  to  the  narrow  lodgment  area  in 
Normandy.  General  Spaatz  became  quite  concerned  about  the  urgent 
insistence  of  Montgomery  and  Leigh-Mallory  that  the  heavy  bomber 
commands  be  made  continuously  available  for  plowing  up  battle 
areas.2  The  armies  did  not  always  make  significant  advances  once  the 
bombings  were  over,  and  their  slowness  in  breaking  out  of  the  beach- 
head evoked  considerable  criticism  in  air  force  and  other  circles  to  the 
effect  that  ground  commanders  were  too  hesitant  in  spirit  and  too  re- 
luctant to  take  advantage  of  favorable  situations  which  air  effort  had 
brought  about.3  Spaatz  insisted  to  General  Eisenhower  that  the  bomb- 
ing of  Germany  should  take  overriding  priority  whenever  visual  con- 
ditions were  satisfactory,  except  for  major  emergencies  on  the  battle- 
field and  for  attacks  on  rocket-firing  installations.4  Air  Chief  Marshal 
Harris  of  RAF  Bomber  Command  was  also  uneasy  about  the  long 
respite  from  strategic  bombing.5  Fortunately,  General  Eisenhower 
fully  comprehended  the  importance  of  strategic  air  warfare  and  he 
favored  giving  USSTAF  and  Bomber  Command  their  opportunity,0 
as  of  course  did  Headquarters  AAF,  the  Air  Ministry,  and  the  U.S. 
component  of  the  Allied  Expeditionary  Air  Force.7 

As  early  as  io  June  1944,  USSTAF  had  drawn  a plan  defining  the 
objectives  of  a renewed  strategic  campaign.8  The  priorities  it  recom- 
mended were  in  the  order  of  oil  production,  the  ball-bearing  industry, 
tank  production  and  ordnance  depots,  and  the  motor  transport  indus- 
try. The  German  Air  Force  would  be  policed  as  frequently  as  seemed 
necessary.  General  Eisenhower  gave  his  assent  and,  except  for  battle 
emergencies  and  reservations  concerning  CROSSBOW,  he  left  Spaatz, 
Doolittle,  and  Harris  free  to  develop  their  strategic  bombing  campaign 
as  they  thought  best.  Priorities  during  the  summer  of  1 944  for  indus- 
trial targets  were  usually  in  the  rank  of  oil,  GAF  and  jet,  V weapons, 
ball  bearings,  and  tanks.  RAF  Bomber  Command  continued  its  gen- 
eral campaign  to  disorganize  German  production  areas,  and  like  the 
Eighth  Air  Force  responded  to  every  call  for  assistance  from  the 


279 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

ground  forces  that  cleared  SHAEF.  The  arrangement,  in  other  words, 
was  a flexible  one  based  on  the  mutual  esteem  and  common  purposes 
of  the  top  officers  in  SHAEF  and  in  the  strategic  air  commands,  and 
it  worked  extraordinarily  well.  Not  only  did  the  armies  receive  vital 
support  whenever  they  needed  it  but  a huge  bombardment  of  Ger- 
many was  begun.  Fortunately,  forces  were  at  full  strength.  In  terms  of 
heavy  bombers  on  operational  status  in  combat  units,  the  Eighth  Air 
Force  at  the  close  of  June  1944  possessed  2,100,  the  Fifteenth  Air 
Force  almost  1,200,  and  the  RAF  i,ioo.9  As  events  were  to  prove,  this 
was  strength  enough  for  the  task. 

It  was  none  too  soon  to  resume  the  strategic  bombing  of  Germany. 
By  D-day  only  three  important  production  systems  had  been  serious- 
ly affected  by  air  attack:  oil,  aircraft,  and  ball  bearings.  The  oil  cam- 
paign was  only  in  its  first  stage  and  the  Germans  could  soon  restore 
their  position.  USSTAF  believed  the  German  Air  Force  would  never 
again  be  as  dangerous  as  it  had  been  in  1943,  but  the  Germans  were 
making  vast  efforts  to  disperse  their  aircraft  factories  and  they  were 
producing  twice  the  number  of  fighters  estimated  by  the  western 
Allies.10  Furthermore,  the  enemy  had  a new  jet-propelled  fighter 
which  might  appear  in  the  skies  any  day  and  which,  the  Americans 
knew,  could  outperform  any  aircraft  they  or  the  British  possessed.11 
As  for  ball-bearing  production,  USSTAF  had  overestimated  the 
effects  of  its  previous  bombings,  for  production  of  this  item  did  not 
decline  in  proportion  to  the  unmistakable  physical  damage  wrought 
on  plants.*  Finally,  German  armaments  production  in  nearly  all  cate- 
gories had  increased  sharply  in  early  1 944  and  promised  to  rise  to  very 
impressive  peaks  during  the  second  half  of  the  year.12  No  one  knew 
what  further  V weapons  might  be  forthcoming,  and  German  propa- 
ganda was  full  of  threats.  If  the  resilient  and  expanding  production  of 
the  enemy  was  only  partly  understood  by  the  Allies,13  they  found  in 
their  optimistic  belief  that  the  German  economy  was  badly  stretched 
an  equally  strong  argument  for  the  renewal  of  strategic  bombardment. 

The  Oil  Campaign 

Since  March  1944  General  Spaatz  had  kept  his  eye  on  the  enemy’s 
oil  production  as  the  most  promising  objective  for  strategic  attack,  and 
the  vast  damage  ensuing  from  Fifteenth  Air  Force  missions  against 
Ploesti  and  the  Eighth  Air  Force  operations  of  12  and  28-29  Mayt 

* See  above,  p.  45.  t See  above,  pp.  172-79. 

280 


THE  STRATEGIC  BOMBER  STRIKES  AHEAD 

had  now  served  to  overcome  serious  RAF  opposition  to  an  oil  cam- 
paign.14 Only  two  days  after  the  Normandy  landings,  on  8 June  1944, 
Spaatz  issued  a historic  order  to  both  component  air  forces  of 
USSTAF  that  their  primary  strategic  aim  henceforth  would  be  to 
deny  oil  to  the  enemy’s  armed  forces,15  an  order  which  remained  in 
force  until  the  strategic  air  war  ended.  The  general  arrangement  was 
to  assign  to  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  the  crude-oil  refineries  around 
Ploesti,  Vienna,  and  Budapest,  together  with  such  synthetic  petroleum 
plants  in  Silesia,  Poland,  and  the  Sudetenland  as  Briix,  Oswiecim, 
Blechhammer  North,  Blechhammer  South,  and  Odertal.  The  RAF’s 
205  Group,  which  operated  from  southern  Italy  with  the  Fifteenth, 
continued  its  immensely  effective  work  in  mining  the  Danube  so  as  to 
obstruct  oil  shipments  to  the  Reich.  The  Eighth  Air  Force  undertook 
to  destroy  synthetic  oil  plants  in  central  and  eastern  Germany  (Politz, 
Zeitz,  Magdeburg,  Merseburg-Leuna,  Ruhland,  etc.)  and  crude-oil 
refineries  around  Hamburg,  Bremen,  and  Hannover.  RAF  Bomber 
Command  entered  the  offensive  with  an  initial  list  of  ten  synthetic  oil 
plants  in  its  familiar  target  area,  the  Ruhr  Valley.16 

For  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  the  new  campaign  represented  no  more 
than  the  continuance  of  a task  already  begun,  albeit  somewhat  unoffi- 
cially. By  June  1944  that  air  force  had  inflicted  at  least  partial  damage 
on  twenty-nine  of  the  sixty-odd  oil  refineries  which  lay  within  its 
range,17  in  an  arc  extending  northward  and  eastward  some  700  miles 
from  its  chief  base  at  Foggia,  Italy.  And  within  a week  after  Spaatz 
had  named  oil  as  the  first  of  its  objectives,  the  Fifteenth  carried  out 
large-scale  attacks  on  the  major  Hungarian  refineries,  all  of  the  Yugo- 
slav producers,  and  all  but  one  of  the  Italian  refineries.18  To  the  Fif- 
teenth belonged  also  the  premier  oil  target  of  the  continent,  which  was 
the  fabulous  oil  field  in  central  Rumania  near  Ploesti  from  which  the 
Nazis  drew  approximately  one-fourth  of  their  petroleum  supplies. 
The  largest  refineries  in  this  area  were  already  well  known  to  Fif- 
teenth Air  Force  intelligence  officers  and  flyers,  who  found  in  the 
stout  defense  put  up  by  the  enemy  there  convincing  evidence  that 
their  commanders  had  chosen  wisely  in  selecting  oil  as  the  first  prior- 
ity. Following  the  ruinous  attacks  of  April  and  May  1944,  the  Ger- 
mans began  to  experiment  with  a new  defensive  measure,  one  which 
proved  very  satisfactory  to  them  for  some  time.  Whenever  their 
warning  system  indicated  the  approach  of  air  fleets  over  Yugoslavia 
toward  Rumania,  the  Germans  would  use  the  forty  minutes  available 

281 


THE  STRATEGIC  BOMBER  STRIKES  AHEAD 


to  them  before  the  attack  to  light  hundreds  of  smoke  pots  around  the 
Ploesti  fields,  with  the  result  that  most  of  the  area  would  be  concealed 
by  the  time  the  bombers  arrived.  Thus  precision  attack  was  impossible. 
In  an  effort  to  overcome  this  obstacle  the  Fifteenth  dispatched  on  io 
June  1944  not  bombers  but  P-38’s,  thirty-six  of  which  dived  on  the 
refineries  with  1,000-pound  bombs  while  thirty-nine  others  fended 
off  the  pugnacious  fighter  units  which  the  Germans  always  kept 
around  Ploesti.  At  best  this  experiment  was  only  an  equivocal  suc- 
cess.19 Captured  records  subsequently  revealed  that  three  of  the  refin- 
eries received  partial  damage;20  but  twenty-three  Lightnings  were  lost, 
some  of  them  to  flak,  which  was  worse  than  ever,  for  Ploesti  by  now 
had  become  the  third  best-defended  target  on  the  continent.21  Second 
place  was  held  by  Vienna,  where  five  crude-oil  refineries  were  at- 
tacked on  16  June  with  moderately  good  results  by  a force  of  658 
heavy  bombers  and  290  fighters.  Losses  showed  fourteen  heavies  and 
six  fighters  shot  down,  for  which  a toll  was  exacted  of  at  least  twenty- 
three  German  fighters.22  It  would  soon  become  evident  that  bombers 
of  the  Fifteenth  suffered  a considerably  higher  loss  ratio  than  did  those 
which  flew  from  English  bases.23 

Ploesti  was  the'  object  of  attack  again  on  23  June,  when  the  Fif- 
teenth Air  Force  sent  761  bombers  to  Rumania.  While  they  dam- 
aged an  oil  storage  installation  at  Giurgiu,  the  smoke  screen  at  Ploesti 
forced  resort  to  blind  bombing  with  results  unobserved.24  On  the  next 
day,  377  heavies  went  back  to  Ploesti  and  again  dumped  their  bombs 
blindly  into  the  smoke.  Later  it  was  learned  that  one  refinery  suffered 
hits.25  Oil  storage  facilities  in  the  south  of  France  were  targets  on  25 
June,  along  with  objectives  preparatory  to  the  invasion  of  southern 
France.  On  26  June  approximately  550  Fortresses  and  Liberators 
ranged  over  Hungary,  attacking  marshalling  yards  and  aircraft  plants, 
and  penetrated  the  Vienna  area  to  bomb  the  large  Moosbierbaum, 
Lobau,  and  Floridsdorf  oil  refineries.  Bombing  results  were  generally 
satisfactory,  and  44  or  more  German  fighters  were  shot  down  around 
Vienna.  Marshalling  yards  in  Hungary  and  Yugoslavia  which  served 
German  front  lines  caught  substantial  tonnages  from  3 3 1 heavy  bomb- 
ers on  27  June,  and  on  the  28th  more  than  200  Liberators  bombed  oil 
refineries  at  Bucharest.20  From  the  Spanish  border  to  the  Russian  lines 
the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  during  June  busily  carried  its  share  of  the  air 
offensive. 

The  Eighth  Air  Force  at  this  time  could  spare  only  a few  missions 

283 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

for  strategic  bombing.  Not  only  did  multitudinous  tasks  in  connection 
with  OVERLORD  and  CROSSBOW  interfere  but  the  weather, 
which. caused  unexpectedly  poor  visual  bombing  conditions  over  Ger- 
many, prevented  a steady  prosecution  of  the  air  campaign  even  on  a 
limited  scale.  The  first  opportunity  for  a large  mission  against  oil  tar- 
gets came  on  18  June.  Weather  forecasts  were  far  from  encouraging, 
but  fifteen  combat  wings  of  B-iy’s  were  dispatched  against  eleven  oil 
installations  in  northwestern  Germany.  Nine  of  the  wings  attacked  the 
Hamburg  area,  where  no  fighter  defenses  were  in  evidence  but  flak 
was  the  heaviest  many  of  the  flyers  had  ever  seen.  While  it  was  neces- 
sary to  drop  the  1,150  tons  on  pathfinder  indications,  a practice  at 
which  the  Eighth  Air  Force  was  not  expert,  results  at  Hamburg  were 
considered  good.  The  other  wings  also  ran  into  poor  visual  conditions 
and  bombed  blind  with  little  effect  on  objectives  near  Bremen  and 
Hannover.27  On  20  June  the  Eighth  sent  a record  force  of  1,361  heavy 
bombers  and  729  escorting  fighters  against  oil  targets  at  Hamburg, 
Harburg,  Ostermoor,  Misburg,  Politz,  and  Magdeburg.  Antiaircraft 
barrages  were  intense  and  accurate  at  most  of  the  targets,  and  the 
bomber  force  attacking  Politz  had  to  beat  off  about  120  enemy  fight- 
ers. Forty-eight  heavy  bombers  were  lost  and  468  suffered  damage  on 
this  mission,  one  of  the  rare  operations  after  1943  in  which  the  GAF 
enjoyed  a temporary  air  superiority.  But  twenty-eight  German  fight- 
ers were  destroyed,  all  of  the  primary  targets  were  attacked  visually, 
results  were  excellent,  and  the  synthetic  oil  plants  at  Magdeburg  and 
Pdlitz  were  forced  to  shut  down  for  extensive  repairs.28 

A mission  to  Berlin  was  the  order  for  21  June  1944.  In  the  back- 
ground of  this  operation,  the  largest  American  attack  yet  mounted  on 
the  Nazi  capital,  lay  a conflict  of  views  between  the  RAF  and  the 
AAF.  Long  devoted  to  area  bombing  and  suffering  from  the  cruel 
V-i  bombardment  of  London,  the  British  proposed  to  send  1,000 
heavies  along  with  every  available  American  bomber  to  smash  Berlin 
in  an  unprecedented  daylight  raid.  The  proposal  made  Spaatz  uneasy, 
for  he  looked  with  strong  disapproval  on  projects  to  break  German 
morale  through  what  he  considered  terror  bombing,29  and  he  won  the 
support  of  Eisenhower  and  AAF  Headquarters  in  Washington  in  his 
determination  to  direct  his  own  forces  only  at  legitimate  military  tar- 
gets. Accordingly,  the  American  target  plan  for  the  projected  mis- 
sion meticulously  singled  out  aircraft  factories,  railroad  facilities,  and 
governmental  areas  in  the  enemy  capital  as  the  objective.  Even  so,  it 

284 


THE  STRATEGIC  BOMBER  STRIKES  AHEAD 


was  evident  that  the  raid  would  probably  be  devastating  to  much  of 
the  city.  Nearly  3,000  heavy  bombers,  flying  in  twos  instead  of  in 
standard  formations  and  protected  by  enormous  fighter  forces,  would 
drop  about  6,000  tons  on  the  city.  As  it  turned  out,  the  British  with- 
drew from  the  mission  when  Harris  concluded  that  fighter  escort, 
which  was  unexpectedly  drained  by  tactical  demands  from  the  French 
battlefields,  would  be  insufficient  to  defend  his  heavies  in  daylight.30 
Since  the  American  plan  was  not  contingent  on  RAF  participation, 
nearly  2,500  aircraft— twenty  combat  wings  of  heavy  bombers  and 
twenty-three  fighter  groups— took  off  and  flew  over  the  North  Sea  to 
Jutland  and  then  turned  southeastward  to  Berlin.  There  they  dropped 
more  than  2,000  tons  from  25,000  feet  and  started  large  fires  and 
scored  direct  hits  on  most  of  the  primary  targets;  400  of  the  heavies 
bombed  successfully  various  aircraft  engine  factories  and  railroad  cen- 
ters in  the  outskirts  of  the  city  and  the  oil  plant  at  Ruhland.  Flak  was 
exceedingly  heavy,  as  was  to  be  expected,  but  serious  fighter  opposi- 
tion materialized  only  during  the  penetration  phase  of  the  operation, 
when  ninety  German  aircraft  attacked.  Forty-four  of  the  heavy 
bombers  failed  to  return  to  England,  and  twenty-two  German  fighters 
were  shot  down.81 

During  the  last  of  June  the  Eighth  Air  Force  was  chiefly  absorbed 
in  CROSSBOW  and  in  operations  against  French  airfields  and  bridges. 
On  24  June  it  was  possible  to  send  six  B-17  combat  wings  against  an 
oil  refinery  at  Bremen,  which  was  selected  because  of  its  favorable 
location  with  respect  to  H2X  identification  landmarks.  This  particular 
mission  was  not  at  all  encouraging  in  the  tedious  course  of  experiments 
being  conducted  by  the  Eighth  to  overcome  weather  and  smoke-pot 
obstacles  by  means  of  radar  devices.  The  bombs  missed  the  oil  refin- 
ery completely,  although  docks,  railways,  and  an  aircraft  factory  re- 
ceived hits.32  On  29  June  the  Eighth  dispatched  almost  1,000  B-iy’s 
and  B-24’s  against  the  synthetic  oil  plant  at  Bohlen,  the  V-i  (formerly 
Volkswagen)  works  at  Fallersleben,  and  eleven  small  targets  in  the 
Leipzig  area  involved  in  aircraft  production.  Enemy  fighter  reaction 
was  unaccountably  limited,  although  the  bombers  were  widely  scat- 
tered and  in  one  phase  formed  a stream  200  miles  long.  Only  twenty 
aircraft  were  lost.  While  twenty-one  targets  were  bombed,  and  V-i 
work  ceased  at  Fallersleben,  General  Doolittle  thought  the  total  results 
of  the  mission  were  disappointing.33 

By  the  first  of  July  the  Allies  were  highly  enthusiastic  about  the 


285 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

oil  offensive.  During  the  month  of  the  Normandy  invasion  20,000  tons 
had  been  dropped  by  the  strategic  air  forces  on  oil-producing  instal- 
lations. The  two  American  forces  had  delivered  most  of  this  tonnage, 
but  RAF  Bomber  Command  had  conducted  very  successful  attacks  on 
Gelsenkirchen  and  Buer.  The  amount  of  petroleum  available  to  Ger- 
many declined  to  472,000  tons  in  June,  compared  to  715,000  tons  in 
May  and  927,000  tons  in  March,  as  the  Allies  learned  after  the  war.34 
Contemporaneously,  they  estimated  with  unusual  accuracy  that  about 
half  of  Germany’s  production  had  been  destroyed.35  It  had  been 
agreed  to  keep  estimates  secret,  and  some  embarrassment  arose  when 
General  Arnold  announced  at  a press  conference  that  enemy  oil  pro- 
duction was  down  to  30  per  cent.38  Afterward,  the  Allies  guarded  their 
estimates  carefully,  and  comparison  with  captured  records  was  to  show 
that  they  came  remarkably  close  to  the  truth. 

As  mounting  evidence,  from  all  sorts  of  intelligence  sources  and 
from  observation  of  ground  movements,  indicated  that  the  Germans 
were  suffering  desperate  local  shortages,  the  tactical  air  forces  intensi- 
fied their  attacks  on  oil  trains  and  storage  dumps  near  the  front  lines.37 
The  Eighth  and  Fifteenth  Air  Forces  showed  improvement  in  the  use 
of  H2X  radar  devices,  and  RAF  Bomber  Command  was  employing 
Gee-H  to  better  advantage  as  its  crews  became  more  experienced.38 
It  was  discovered  that  synthetic  oil  plants  lent  themselves  to  successful 
air  attacks  more  easily  than  oil  refineries,  since  the  former  could  be  put 
out  of  action  by  relatively  small  damage  to  critical  parts  of  their  com- 
plicated machinery.  Furthermore,  the  synthetic  plants  were  much 
larger  than  the  refineries  and  were  more  likely  to  appear  on  radar 
screens  because  they  usually  stood  some  distance  outside  of  cities.  The 
Fifteenth  Air  Force  sharply  raised  its  level  of  accuracy  and  developed 
techniques,  such  as  the  use  of  diamond-shaped  formations,  which  in- 
sured more  safety  for  the  bombers  as  well  as  greater  precision  in  at- 
tack.30 A further  strengthening  of  the  effort  came  from  the  Joint  Oil 
Targets  Committee  set  up  in  London  to  supervise  the  oil  campaign 
more  scientifically.  This  organization,  which  drew  membership  from 
USSTAF,  the  Air  Ministry,  and  the  Ministry  of  Economic  Warfare, 
evaluated  methods  of  attack  and  checked  data  from  the  continent  con- 
cerning German  oil  difficulties.  One  of  its  first  decisions  was  to  recom- 
mend intensification  of  attacks  on  gasoline  production,  thus  giving 
highest  priority  to  the  Bergius-type  synthetic  oil  plants  and  to  crude- 
oil  refineries  in  Rumania,  Hungary,  Poland,  and  Germany— in  that 
order.40 

i8d 


THE  STRATEGIC  BOMBER  STRIKES  AHEAD 

The  Germans  were  far  from  apathetic  in  the  face  of  the  oil  offen- 
sive. As  Albert  Speer,  the  Nazi  minister  of  armaments  and  war  pro- 
duction, later  declared,  the  Eighth  Air  Force  attack  of  12  May  1944 
made  real  what  “had  been  a nightmare  to  us  for  more  than  two 
years.”41  Speer  rightly  feared  that  this  mission  was  the  beginning  of  a 
planned  campaign,  and  he  poured  a series  of  apocalyptic  memoranda 
upon  the  Fuehrer,  who  was  properly  alarmed.  Hitler  was  particularly 
wrathful  because  Germany’s  synthetic  oil  plants  had  been  built  in 
clusters  which  the  Allies  could  easily  bomb  now  that  the  Luftwaffe 
was  so  distracted  and  weak.  But  the  Nazis  were  not  beaten.  With 
Hitler’s  full  backing,  Speer  put  the  capable  Edmund  Geilenberg  in 
charge  of  a vast  reconstruction  and  dispersal  program,  for  which  he 
had  the  highest  priorities  in  materials  and  labor.  Soon  he  had  350,000 
workers,  most  of  them  foreign  slaves,  engaged  in  repairing  damage  as 
soon  as  the  plants  were  bombed  and  in  building  smaller  units  in  places 
difficult  for  the  Allies  to  find  and  attack.42  The  entire  program  was 
carried  through  with  a speed  and  efficiency  that  compelled  admiration 
from  the  British  and  the  Americans,  whose  intelligence  officers  were 
taxed  and  frequently  confounded  in  seeking  out  the  new  plants,  and 
whose  air  forces  had  to  bomb  and  rebomb  the  old  installations  far 
more  often  than  they  had  expected  to.  Thus  the  individual  targets  be- 
came more  resilient  and  the  target  system  itself  multiplied. 

The  GAF , Rockets , and  Oil 

In  July,  Allied  air  commanders  began  to  worry  about  the  resurrec- 
tion of  the  German  Air  Force.  It  had  made  a pitiful  showing  against 
OVERLORD,  and  its  opposition  to  strategic  bombing  had  been 
feeble  or  nonexistent  during  most  missions  for  weeks  past.  Yet,  the 
GAF  occasionally  had  put  up  ferocious  resistance  to  heavy  bombers, 
particularly  around  Vienna,  Politz,  and  Ploesti,  where  the  Fifteenth 
Air  Force  had  run  into  spirited  and  skilful  opposition  on  several  of 
its  recent  missions.  Spaatz  soberly  considered  the  possibility  that  the 
GAF  might  recuperate.43  His  experts  differed  widely  about  the  pro- 
duction figures  of  German  aircraft  and  grossly  underestimated  them,44 
but  there  was  evidence  that  the  GAF  had  some  life  left,  and  key  mem- 
bers of  his  staff  knew  acute  concern  over  the  threat  of  jet-propelled 
fighters.  It  was  known  that  a few  Me-i63’s  and  Me-262’s  were  active, 
although  none  as  yet  had  interfered  with  the  bomber  fleets.  USSTAF 
estimates  of  their  probable  effects  varied  radically,  ranging  from  the 
opinion  that  they  would  not  be  a factor  for  many  months  to  the  fear 

287 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 


that  they  might  soon  drive  all  daylight  bombers  from  the  skies.45  Doo- 
little’s dire  predictions  on  this  matter  disturbed  General  Arnold,  and 
Spaatz  pressed  Washington  for  rapid  development  of  American  jets  as 
the  best  counterweapon.46  Meanwhile,  the  strategic  bombers  could 
attack  such  GAF  production  facilities  as  were  identifiable.  While 
USSTAF  bombers  had  aimed  only  2,842  tons  on  such  targets  in  June, 
they  would  drop  7,398  tons  in  July  and  8,442  tons  in  August.47 

Illogically,  it  seems,  German  aircraft  production  had  continued  to 
rise  during  the  months  immediately  following  the  great  POINT- 
BLANK  successes  of  early  1 944.  The  impressive  nature  of  the  aerial 
victory  is  clear  only  when  the  figures  for  planned  production  are  com- 
pared with  those  for  actual  production  (not  overlooking  the  “missing” 
26,000  fighters  which  cannot  be  accounted  for  except  as  an  effort  of 
certain  German  officials  to  lull  the  fears  of  their  superiors)48  and  when 
the  GAF  of  mid- 1944  is  weighed  against  the  air  force  the  Germans 
had  intended  to  dispose.  The  GAF  accepted  2,177  single-engine  fight- 
ers in  June  1944,  compared  to  1,016  in  the  preceding  February,  and 
acceptances  during  July,  August,  and  September  amounted  to  2,627, 
2,779,  and  3,03 1,  respectively.*  Much  of  the  credit  for  this  resurgence 
went  to  the  ubiquitous  Albert  Speer,  whom  Goering  not  inappro- 
priately called  “a  great  genius.”49  When  Speer  brought  aircraft  pro- 
duction under  the  control  of  his  ministry,  he  began  to  disperse  the  en- 
tire industry  and  to  accelerate  the  repair  of  bombed  plants.  Dispersal 
may  have  proved  ultimately  to  have  been  wasteful,  but  until  late  1 944 
it  was  highly  successful.  The  factories  were  so  small,  concealed,  and 
scattered  that  Allied  intelligence  found  it  exceedingly  difficult  to  lo- 
cate them  and  bombers  often  failed  to  hit  their  vital  parts.  Allied  air 
leaders  failed  to  assess  the  German  effort  with  complete  accuracy, 
and  with  some  reason  were  often  uneasy  and  occasionally  pessimistic 
during  the  summer  of  1944. 

Another  source  of  concern  was  the  V-i,  which  had  come  into  oper- 
ation on  12  June  and  was  joined  in  September  by  the  V-2  rocket.  The 
German  V campaign  against  the  London  area  might  be  described 
properly  in  military  terms  as  a harassing  operation,  but  the  anguish 
and  danger  endured  by  the  English  people  caused  British  officials  to 
insist  urgently  upon  all  possible  countermeasures.  The  only  perma- 
nent remedy  was  to  overrun  the  launching  sites  on  the  coast  of  France 
and  Belgium,  which  the  armies  did  not  accomplish  in  any  considerable 

* See  above,  p.  61. 

288 


THE  STRATEGIC  BOMBER  STRIKES  AHEAP 

measure  until  late  summer.  Until  then,  other  methods  had  to  be  tried. 
The  launching  sites  were  almost  impregnable  to  bombing,  now  that 
the  Germans  had  rebuilt  them  following  the  Allied  raids  earlier  in  the 
year.50  But  some  good  might  be  achieved,  although  American  air  lead- 
ers generally  doubted  it,  by  covering  them  regularly  with  bombs  and 
by  destroying  everything  around  them.  General  Spaatz  protested  to 
Eisenhower  about  the  disproportionate  share  awarded  the  Eighth  and 
the  apparent  precedence  which  Leigh-Mallory  intended  for  CROSS- 
BOW to  take  over  the  strategic  bombing  of  Germany.51  In  view  of 
Spaatz’s  reluctance,  RAF  Bomber  Command  took  on  most  of  the  tar- 
gets and  the  Eighth  Air  Force  agreed  to  attack  launching  sites  when- 
ever it  could  not  operate  against  German  industry.  The  aggregate  ton- 
nage directed  by  the  two  forces  at  all  phases  of  V manufacture  or 
firing  sites  during  the  summer  of  1944  would  amount  to  better  than 
70, 000. 53  No  doubt  the  diversion  of  bombing  effort  was  of  serious  pro- 
portions, as  the  Germans  had  probably  planned  for  it  to  be,  and  ulti- 
mately it  was  judged  that  it  had  been  of  little  effect  in  crippling  the  V 
campaign.53  . 

While  higher  headquarters  pondered  these  problems  and  shifted  the 
emphasis  of  bombing  from  time  to  time,  the  bombers  continued  to  go 
out  as  frequently  as  possible  on  missions  which  seem  monotonously 
repetitious  when  chronicled  in  short  spaces,  although  each  sortie  for 
the  aircrew  involved  was  a hazardous  and  often  costly  experience.  The 
Eighth  Air  Force  devoted  the  first  week  of  July  mostly  to  tactical 
operations  over  France.  On  the  7th  it  dispatched  1,103  heavy  bombers 
to  attack  synthetic  oil  plants  at  Bohlen,  Merseburg,  and  Liitzkendorf, 
which  were  recovering  from  previous  bombings,  and  to  various  air- 
craft factories  in  the  Leipzig  area.  On  the  way  to  the  target  areas 
Liberators  which  comprised  one  of  the  three  main  forces  ran  into 
deadly  opposition  from  German  fighters  and  suffered  the  loss  of  an 
entire  “clay  pigeon”  squadron  and  painful  destruction  in  others,  and 
GAF  resistance  might  have  proved  even  more  serious  but  for  a simul- 
taneous operation  by  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  against  Silesian  oil  tar- 
gets which  drew  off  enemy  fighter  strength.*  In  all,  the  Eighth  lost 
thirty-seven  heavy  bombers  and  six  fighters.  All  of  the  bombing  was 
visual  and  the  results  ranged  from  fair  to  excellent;  on  the  whole  it  was 
a very  successful  attack.54 

The  Eighth  Air  Force  operated  over  northern  France  with  large 

' Sec  below,  p.  291. 

2H9 


THE  ARMY  AIR  FORCES  IN  WORLD  WAR  II 

forces  on  8 July,  with  small  forces  on  9 July,  and  was  altogether 
grounded  by  the  weather  on  the  10th.  On  11  July,  a break  in  the 
overcast  seemed  likely  to  develop  around  Munich,  where  abundant 
aircraft  engine  plants  and  marshalling  yards  offered  attractive  targets. 
It  was  a mission  of  considerable  length  and  it  was  expected  that  the 
GAF  would  attack  at  the  point  of  greatest  strain  for  the  fighter  escort. 
But  the  Luftwaffe  was  not  at  all  in  evidence.  Nor  was  a break  in  the 
overcast.  The  bombers  had  to  employ  II2X  on  all  the  targets;  Munich 
and  Augsburg  received  2,353  tons  from  the  1,048  attacking  bombers. 
On  the  next  day  the  Eighth  hoped  to  revisit  Berlin,  which  the  RAF 
had  recently  bombed,  but  weather  conditions  were  too  forbidding. 
Accordingly,  1,117  °f  its  bombers  returned  to  Munich,  where  2,708 
tons  fell  on  the  center  of  the  city.  Again  the  bombers  used  H2X  and 
again  they  encountered  no  GAF  fighters.  For  the  third  successive  day, 
on  13  July,  the  Eighth  dispatched  more  than  1,000  heavies  to  Munich 
and  bombed  it  by  H2X  methods  and  attacked  marshalling  yards  at 
Saarbriicken  as  well.  While  forty  German  fighters  showed  up  on  the 
13  July  mission,  they  made  only  reluctant  and  ineffective  efforts  to 
intercept  the  bombers.55  Losses  of  the  Eighth  Air  Force  on  all  three 
of  these  Munich  attacks  amounted  to  fifty  heavy  bombers,  most  of 
which  were  victims  of  antiaircraft  guns  and  operational  troubles. 
When  the  weather  cleared  up  sufficiently  to  make  assessments,  it  ap- 
peared that  the  railway  facilities  in  the  city  and  the  great  Bayerische 
Motorenwerke  aeroengine  plant  were  very  severely  damaged.58 

Meanwhile,  the  Fifteenth  Air  Force  was  heavily  engaged  in  opera- 
tions to  facilitate  the  advance  of  the  ground  forces  in  Italy  and  in  pre- 
paring for  the  invasion  of  southern  France.*  But  its  strategic  bombing 
was  also  impressive,  and  its  battle  losses  in  July  reached  the  total  of 
3 1 8 heavy  bombers,  the  worst  month  of  the  war  for  the  Fifteenth  and 
a higher  ratio  of  loss  than  the  Eighth  was  suffering.57  In  the  first  week 
of  July,  Fifteenth  Air  Force  bombers  attacked  a wide  variety  of  tar- 
gets from  France  to  Ruman